Fundraising ’Thadapalooza’ makes the jump to virtual

Mike Genet
A previous 'Thadapalooza' event. It's held each year in Independence, raising money for groups that support LBGTQ youth.

Thadapalooza, an annual fundraiser for the local LGBTQ+ youth community, will be virtual this year.

Saturday’s event, organized and hosted Independence resident Thad McCullough, has evolved into a drag variety show, with musicians and comedians also performing. It lasts from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, and viewers can buy tickets and watch the show by logging onto or and following the appropriate links. Besides the show, an auction and raffle are also available.

The annual fundraiser, which over the past six years has raised nearly $20,000, is either on or near McCullough’s birthday, an idea he said he stole from singer Adam Lambert. The first fundraiser was a bowling tournament on the Square, and then next year came the variety show that is Thadapalooza, including McCullough’s drag queen persona “Leona Noel.”

“We started getting musicians the next year, and we needed an emcee; that’s where Leona came in,” said McCullough, who works as a stylist at B-Vogue Salon & Art Gallery in the Englewood district and serves on Independence’s Human Relations Commission. “I’d always admired drag queens for their bravery and their artistry. I grew up in the theater – was involved all through elementary and high school, and a little afterwards. Theatrics are a big part of it.”

Musical guests include Joey Marlow, IVORY BLUE, Julia Reynolds and Julia Othmer. Also performing: Starr Attraction, Melinda Ryder, Jaharia Von Du and Michael McQuary.

Instead of a stage show, many performances will be recorded videos, though some performances will be live, with “Leona” and “LuLu Divine” acting like MTV veejays of yesteryear, introducing performers.

“Going virtual, it’s the same stuff; it’s just done a little bit differently,” McCullough said. “We’ll be acting out live and introducing the performers.”

After a couple dozen in attendance the first years, Thadapalooza grew to selling out a 200-seat venue.

“We’re not at that level, but we’re hoping to get 100,” McCullough said.

“Some of the responses we’ve gotten from people that attended is the amount of love that’s in the room, that’s one of the vibes they got, that everybody was so accepting and cheerful,” he said. “That is a concern when you go virtual – how do you create that vibe. But it comes down to how much heart you put into it.”

McCullough said one thing funds have benefited, besides scholarships for some graduating seniors, is renting buses for students to a queer prom in Kansas City.

“Transportation is a big thing,” McCullough said. “One student told us what they appreciated most, ‘I get to be myself.’”

Sponsors for Thadapalooza include: B-Vogue, Kathy Sylvia and Tom Coleman of Platinum Realty, Beth Franklin of KW Realty, Square One Homes and Score Sports Bar & Grill.