The Fire Ball brings in capacity crowds

Dragshow filled with bright lights and runways all in the name of human and social rights


ALL FOR A CAUSE: Queens from all over the country performed for LGBTQA rights at the Fire Ball. © 2014 Jessie Tremmel

Story by Jessie Tremmel, Staff Writer

The Fire Ball, a dragshow supporting gender and sexuality equality, came back for its third year in a row Friday and Saturday at UW-Eau Claire with two sold out, three-hour shows.

For Friday, general admission passes sold out during the night, but Saturday, general admission tickets sold out by 2 p.m. More than 1,400 tickets were sold total.

The LGBTQA Student Support Fund raised a little less than $10,000 from The Fire Ball ticket sales. An additional $3,000 came from merchandise and other sources. The LGBTQA Student Support Fund is not limited to LGBTQA students, but is available to anyone who is seeking social change and asks Christopher Jorgenson, the director of the Women’s and LGBTQ Resource Center, for help funding their experience.

The money to fund The Fire Ball came from the center’s budget, which Jorgenson manages in order to sponsor all the events that the Women’s and LGBTQ Resource Center puts on through the year. The majority of the queens are local with a few flying in for the event. Booking the queens cost the Women’s and LGBTQ Resource Center about $7,000.

“The Fire Ball is really the office’s gift to students,” Women’s and LGBTQ  center intern Jared Beighley said. “It’s not something that the office profits from.”

Women’s and LGBTQ Resource Center interns Beighley and Kim Schnurr were included in the ballroom setup discussion, assisted with some of the lighting, worked backstage with the queens and helped with decorations both in the ballroom and in the hallway.

“Very stressful, but very rewarding,” Beighley said. “I could not believe the transformation that that ballroom had gone under from Thursday night to Saturday night. It was really nice to be able to see all the hard work that Chris did, and that we did, pay off.”

Along with the queens, there were backup dancers and pre-show dancers. Eau Claire junior Alyssa Sass has been dancing for 15 years. She was encouraged to participate in The Fire Ball her freshman year but doubted she could improv for the entire pre-show, about one hour.

This year, Koryna Flores, the main choreographer for The Fire Ball, gave Sass no choice but to audition for the show.

“I grew up as a ballet contemporary dancer; the most I did that was outside of that realm was hip-hop,” Sass said. “I’ve always wanted to do hip-hop jazz funk fusion, and that’s Koryna’s style.”

Sass put about 30 hours into preparing for the show and said she hopes to be more involved with the choreography next year, since Flores is graduating and her role will need to be filled.

The queens were gracious toward other dancers and the audience. When Sass got a minor cut on her leg from her heel, Shangela, one of the headliners, comforted her by telling her that it was “a battle wound from diva-dom.”

After the show, the Meet the Queens event was filled, and Beighley said the queens were really good about it, making a point to spell names correctly and asking questions.

“Drag is a very tight-knit community,” Beighley said. “They interact with each other the exact same way, they jokingly insult each other. They are the best of friends.”

Next year’s Fire Ball is still being drafted but is expected to return to the university for a fourth time.