Central Florida’s Easter tradition Babes in Bonnets celebrates 20 years

By : Randa Griffin
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Babes in Bonnets, an annual fundraiser event benefiting the Orlando Youth Alliance (OYA), is back for its 20th anniversary at the Parliament House Footlight Theatre March 26.

The event, hosted this year again by Ms. Darcel Stevens and Blue Star, was originally created 20 years ago by the legendary drag performer Carmella Marcella Garcia.

“Carmella will be traveling to Orlando to perform at this year’s event,” says Michael Slaymaker, chief executive officer of the OYA. “Carmella is a legend in the Orlando drag community and her performance will definitely be a must see.”

Slaymaker says that numerous volunteers and members of the community have donated their time, money and love to this year’s Babes in Bonnets and ensures that this is going to be the best year yet.

“Over the top bonnets and excellent auction prizes will once again be the talk of the evening at this year’s Babes in Bonnets,” Slaymaker says.

Slaymaker credits Stevens with organizing this year’s event. Stevens fundraises each year within the community by contacting local businesses about participating in the event and supporting the OYA, even launching a GoFundMe again this year to get an early start on the fundraising. Last year Stevens had a online goal of $5,000, this year she has bumped it up to $6,000.

“Being this is the 20th year of Carmella Marcella Garcia’s Babes In Bonnets, I’m asking all to give generously in celebration of Carmella’s long outstanding body of work as a female impersonator and community activist. With your generous donations let’s make the Grand Ole Gal Of The South BABES IN BONNETS 20th year spectacular,” Stevens wrote on the GoFundMe page.

Last year’s event set a record fundraising amount raising a total of $28,000. According to Slaymaker, this year should be even more successful than the last with the financial group Modern Woodmen agreeing to match the first $2,500 raised.

The Parliament House covers all expenses for the Babes in Bonnets event, so all the proceeds go directly toward supporting the OYA.

“The funds generated help support groups and services for young people age 13-24 in Central Florida who are trying to navigate through the coming out or transitioning process,” says Slaymaker.

Funds raised are also used toward college scholarships, help for homeless youth and assisting Gay/Straight Alliances in local middle and high schools.

The OYA is a non-profit organization which provides a safe space for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (GLBTQ) youth to gather, talk about issues and concerns that are important in their lives, as well as meet other gay youth.

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