Around Town: Miss Gay Latina Asheville and Mister Gay Latino Asheville share center stage

LIFE'S RICH PAGEANT: For the first time, the Miss Gay Latina and Mister Gay Latino Asheville pageants will be combined into one event. "For anyone who might expect just a Latin-themed drag show, they are in for a wonderful surprise," says Elio Gonzalez, owner of Gonzalez Diaz Enterprises, which produces the events. Photo by Ayana Dusenberry

Elio Gonzalez launched the Miss Gay Latina Asheville pageant in 2008 as a way to highlight the talents of local drag performers who otherwise lacked a venue. The event long ago outgrew the modest West Asheville church where it started, but Gonzalez says the pageant’s original goal of empowerment and self-expression remains at its heart.

“It is important to have an event like this in a city like Asheville that’s not only growing, but also growing in its diversity, because that’s what the pageant has done each year: grown to include representation of all cultures, sexual orientations and identities,” says Gonzalez. “It has been so important that our contestants have felt welcomed, accepted and embraced by the Asheville community.”

This year’s annual gathering takes place at the Wortham Center for the Arts on Saturday, Nov. 20, at 7:30 p.m. A double feature, the celebration will also feature Mister Gay Latino Asheville, which Gonzalez first introduced in 2019. Both events were canceled last year due to COVID-19.

Eight contestants will vie for the title of Miss Gay Latina in the categories of interview, national costume, talent and evening gown. Meanwhile, four additional contestants will compete for Mister Gay Latino in interview, swimsuit, talent and formal wear.

The event will highlight Latin culture through costumes, music and dance performances by drag and nondrag performers and contestants. In addition to local talents, Miss Continental 2021, Juliana Rivera, will perform, as will Dance Empire of Miami.

“We like to say that the show is a pageant like no other,” Gonzalez says.

The mistress and master of ceremonies will be, respectively, Miss Gay Latina Asheville 2019, Sunny Dee-Lite, and Mister Gay Latino 2019, Aries Mateo Kelly.

The Wortham Center for the Arts is at 18 Biltmore Ave. For more information or to get tickets ($40-$80), go to

Stacks of wax

Looking for that rare Sun Records 45? Or a classic LP by Miles Davis? Maybe you just need another copy of Abbey Road or Rumours.

Here’s your chance.

The second annual Asheville FM Record Fair will be at Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville on Saturday, Nov. 20, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (with early admission at 10 a.m. for VIP ticket holders). Already a dozen or so national vendors have committed to the event, meaning there will be at least 18 tables of used records to peruse, says KP Whaley, general manager of 103.3 Asheville FM, the event’s sponsor.

“These folks are record store owners, record vendors and collectors. Many of them tour all over the country dealing and swapping new and used vinyl,” he says.

Asheville FM also will sell records that have been donated by the public.

The inaugural fair was held at New Belgium Brewing in 2019 and drew several hundred people. Due to its success — and because New Belgium hasn’t fully reopened all its public spaces — organizers decided to change venues.

“We wanted to move forward in an indoor space that we felt was safe and provided more room to grow,” Whaley explains. “We’re certain this is going to become a signature event for us and also for Asheville.”

All proceeds from admissions benefit 103.3 Asheville FM, a listener-supported community radio station.

Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville is at 87 Haywood St. For more information or to purchase tickets ($5-15), visit

Asheville Holiday Parade

The Asheville Holiday Parade debuted in 1946, the same year It’s a Wonderful Life hit movie theaters. And like the Jimmy Stewart classic, the parade has become a beloved tradition.

“I think the parade’s longevity is due to it being a true community event,” says Meghan Rogers, executive director of the Asheville Downtown Association. “You may see your neighbor on one of the floats or your friend’s kids performing with their cheer or martial arts group.”

The 75th annual Asheville Holiday Parade will make its way through downtown on Saturday, Nov. 20, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. The official performance stop is at the corner of Biltmore and Patton avenues, but viewing areas will be available all along both streets.

The parade will feature more than 100 entries, including marching bands, dance and cheer squads, youth sports teams, nonprofits and businesses. Oh, and Santa Claus is scheduled to bring up the rear.

Rogers says of all the events the Downtown Association was forced to cancel in 2020, the parade was the hardest to swallow. “It brings such joy to the community and kicks off the holiday season for the whole region. It’s very exciting to be able to bring that joy back to our community this year.”

For more information, go to

Make a list, check it twice

It’s never too early to get some holiday shopping done.

The Western Carolina University Fine Art Museum will hold its 12th annual Handmade Holiday Sale at Bardo Arts Center on Thursday, Nov. 18, noon-7 p.m.

The event will feature gifts created by WCU students, staff and alumni. Items for sale will include artwork, candles, ceramics, wearable accessories and woodwork.

Participating vendors include the WCU Art Education Club, ECB Designs, K&K Wright, Kalmia Handmade Goods, Local Art by Jane, Made by Barb, the WCU ceramics club, Paula’s Cards and More, Procrastinating Piddler Creations, Petite Lumière, ReMade by Mel, Smoky Mountain Creations and Spriggly’s Beescaping.

The Bardo Arts Center is at 199 Centennial Drive, Cullowhee. For more information, visit


Carolyn Rose-Grayson will be the 2021-22 artist-in-residence for Southern Equality Studios, a program of the Asheville-based Campaign for Southern Equality.

Rose-Grayson is a Fayetteville-based mixed media artist who is best known for digital creations.

“As a queer Black artist living in North Carolina, perseverance and self-exploration have both played a pivotal role in the development of my identity, as well as my craft,” the artist says in a press release. “They have also been instrumental in strengthening my desire to uplift and empower other QTBIPOC (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous People of Color) artists within the community.”

During the residency, she plans to “examine the legacy of QTBIPOC resistance” through various forms of artistic media, culminating in an exhibition, a zine, a documentary and other means of artistic expression.

Formed in 2011, the Campaign for Southern Equality works across the South to promote full LGBTQ equality. For more information, go to

Outside show

The Autumn Players of Asheville Community Theatre will present as readers theater three performances of The Outsider, a comedy by Paul Slade Smith Friday-Sunday, Nov. 19-21, at 2:30 p.m. The Friday and Saturday performances will be on ACT’s main stage, and the Sunday performance will be at UNC Asheville’s Reuter Center.

The play will be directed by Elliot Weiner, with a cast that includes LuAnn Bolnick, Joe Scully, Julianne Arnall, Kermit Brown, Jerre’ Bolnick, Melody Hockley and Donald Beck.

The Outsider tells the story of a governor who is thrown out of office because of his sexual shenanigans and the political gurus who want to install an easily manipulated buffoon in his place.

The Asheville Community Theatre is at 35 E. Walnut St. The Reuter Center is at 300 Campus View Road on the UNCA campus. For more information or to purchase tickets ($8), go to


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About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

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