By: Tara Blue
On Sunday, July 16th, the Dandy Lion Café hosted the second annual Ashland Pride festival at Ashland City Park. Patrons from Ashland, Columbia and surrounding areas came to town to enjoy the day’s festivities, including live music, arts and crafts, food, pole dancers, vendors, and drag queen performances. The event was sponsored by Nclusion+, an organization based out of Columbia and Kansas City which promotes LGBTQIA+ events, media, and education. Dandy Lion Café owner Caitlin Cunningham says there were over five hundred attendees. According to the Columbia Missourian, Cunningham was invited by the City of Ashland to host the event at the city park this year and wanted to create a space for LGBTQIA+ residents in the smaller towns of Ashland and Hartsburg to feel comfortable and supported.

Although most attendees appeared to enjoy the day, some residents were not pleased with the event occurring at the city park.

At the Board of Aldermen meeting on Tuesday, July 18th, resident Kristen Colbert questioned the event based on current Ashland city code regarding adult entertainment. Colbert said that she supports people’s rights to celebrate in their own manner, but she was taken back when she saw pictures and videos posted on social media which featured drag queens dressed in minimal clothing, dancing inappropriately on top of picnic tables, taking money from adults and young children and referenced a “stripper pole” that was brought to the park for the event. She says that this type of behavior is not what the community wants.

The Dandy Lion on Main Facebook, July 16, 2023 (Fair Use as referenced in board of aldermen meeting)

Referring to Chapter 23 of the Ashland City Code, Colbert questioned why the Nclusion+ drag performances should not be considered “adult entertainment” and says that according to the city code, adult entertainment is not allowed within 1,500 feet of a public park. She asked the Board and the police department to enforce our city codes, and asked what would stop these activities from happening in our schools? Nclusion+ came under fire earlier this year when middle school students from Columbia Public Schools attended a diversity event which featured a drag show.

The code defines an adult entertainment cabaret as an establishment where “a regular and substantial portion of its business is providing adult entertainment which features strippers, male or female impersonators, go-go dancers, or live performances; or material, which is primarily characterized by an emphasis on ‘specified sexual activities’ or ‘specified anatomical areas’” (23.005, 2d). Most upcoming events on the Nclusion+ website are restricted to those who are 18+ years of age. The Journal reached out to the organization for clarification between their family friendly and 18+ years events but has not received a response.

A mother encourages a child to tip an Nclusion+ performer


Chapter 23 of the city code also defines adult entertainment as “any live exhibition, performance, display or dance of any type… which involves a person who is nude or in such attire, costume or clothing as to expose to view any portion of the human genitals, pubic region, vulva, pubic hair, buttocks, female breast or breasts below a point immediately above the top of the areola or nipple or the human male genitals in a discernibly erect state, even if completely and opaquely covered.” Cunningham says the dancers took extra precautions to make sure the costumes properly covered all areas, and that anyone concerned about minimal clothing should not visit the community pool. Cunningham also stated that the pole is a “fitness pole.”

The City of Ashland responded with a letter from last year when the Dandy Lion Café first opened and says it does not classify the café as an adult business. The city has not responded specifically to the activities at the Ashland Pride festival or the question of whether Nclusion+ should be considered an adult entertainment business.