As this year’s Victoria Pride events go virtual due to COVID-19, the time-honoured Memorial Dragball Game will not take place but an alternative to the popular event is planned for those who miss it.
Victoria Pride Society released a documentary detailing the history of the Memorial Dragball Game on July 1, the day the game typically takes place.
“We’ve got interviews with old players, one of the original creators and we took three drag kings and three drag queens to Vic West Park for some filming,” said David Tillson, Victoria Pride Society president and Pride festival director.
Tillson has been running the Memorial Dragball Game for years and says it has evolved to become a community outing meant for people to have fun without any commercialism or sponsorship getting in the way.
“We don’t care who you are or how you identify,” Tillson said. “If you want to play you pick a team and play softball.”
The game has roots dating back to 1993 when a group of friends, many who were drag performers, were grieving the loss of community members from HIV/AIDS. They were looking for a way to forget reality and just play a game and so the Memorial Dragball Game was born.
There are two teams, the drag kings and the drag queens. Those who play on the drag kings sport fake facial hair drawn on with makeup and those on the drag kings wear a wig and lipstick. All of the players come up with silly drag games and they “sort of” play softball, Tillson said.
“We’re not really good at it,” Tillson said. “We play seriously for the first half and then it goes haywire by the second half. When they say steal the bases we literally steal the bases.”
Tillson, who is the master of ceremonies for the event, says he has a lot of fun in the role and eventually makes up a final score so both teams tie.
The game opens with a proclamation from Victoria’s mayor as well as a land acknowledgement, singing of O’ Canada and the singing of Somewhere over the Rainbow which Tillson said is the game’s anthem. The anthems, acknowledgement and proclamation will be included in the documentary.
While there are about 35 players in the game, more than 1,000 spectators usually make their way to the park for a day of fun “antics” Tillson said.
The documentary premieres on Victoria Pride Society’s YouTube channel on July 1. For more information, visit VictoriaPrideSociety’s Facebook page.