The race that drags out Queenstown's 'ladies' (+ pics)

Drag queen contestants (from left) Dermot Earey (Miss Nuts), Kane Fraser (Kaneesha), Richard Thomas (Mountain Mermaid), Simon Smith (Jane Fondler) and Graham Budd (Gail Force) enjoy the spoils after yesterday's event. Photo by Emily Adamson.
Drag queen contestants (from left) Dermot Earey (Miss Nuts), Kane Fraser (Kaneesha), Richard Thomas (Mountain Mermaid), Simon Smith (Jane Fondler) and Graham Budd (Gail Force) enjoy the spoils after yesterday's event. Photo by Emily Adamson.
Take a group of hardy Southern men, put them in fishnet stockings, miniskirts, wigs and slap on enough make-up to put singer Marilyn Manson to shame and you get the 2008 Queenstown winter festival drag queens race.

The "ladies" were out in force yesterday, competing in the 18th annual race around Earnslaw Park.

But before they paraded their alter egos in front of hundreds of spectators about noon, the contestants had prepared for an hour in a special powder room.

Standing around looking uncomfortable, with hairy chests visible through low-cut dresses, some of the entrants downed glasses of bubbly for Dutch courage, while others waited patiently to get their faces put on by the make-up artists.

The transformation was almost immediate.

Once the thick eye-shadow, complete with glitter and heavy eyeliner went on, lips started to pout involuntarily while eyelids took on lives of their own.

With a swivel of their hips, the "ladies", who adopted pseudonyms for the event, sashayed their way around the room; some wobbled in stilettos, while others clomped about like a 5-year-old trying on mum's shoes for the first time.

Destination Queenstown's Graham Budd (Gail Force), resplendent in his Olivia Newton-John-inspired ensemble, had taken on the role of DQ Drag Queen following chief executive David Kennedy's "retirement" from the event.

"He retired gracefully last year. This [day] has been building for 364 days," Mr Budd said.

The queens were loaded into an open-roofed bus and driven slowly around town to the delight - and occasional horror - of unsuspecting pedestrians.

At Earnslaw Park, they lined up to compete in their various heats over an obstacle course which required them to hurdle hay bales.

Radioworks' Glen Balfour (Roxy) won the first heat but, in the final, his platform wedge heels lost their grip in the mud and he fell.

The final was won Simon Smith (Jane Fondler), who beat Richard Thomas (Mountain Mermaid), despite some argy-bargy around the course.

Mr Thomas won the Miss Photogenic award - "because he looks like a girl" - while Mr Balfour took the Miss Friendly title and Blair Deasy (Paris "No Boobs" Hilton) was awarded the Miss Personality title.

None of the "ladies" appeared in any hurry to return to their true gender, heading off to local watering holes, to celebrate their achievements.

Last night, the Battle of the Sexes was held at the Kawarau Station Falls Pavilion, while young locals got their chance to shine at the Junior and Senior Family Arts and Variety Show at the Memorial Hall.

Today's programme:

12.15pm: Wilkinsons Pharmacy Ladies Who Lunch at the Kawarau Falls Station Pavilion. Tickets $49 per person.

12.30pm: Speight's Dog Derby at Coronet Peak. Free.

4pm: Speight's Dog Barking at the Village Green or Speight's Ale House. Sold out.

7.30pm: Lindauer Laughs at the Kawarau Falls Station Pavilion. R18, tickets $69 per person.