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New ZACC 3

Zootown Arts Community Center bought the Studebaker Building downtown for its new location through a donations campaign that's raised over $3 million. Owning the building has allowed ZACC the freedom to design spaces for its art and music programs, as well as have an elevator for accessibility.

Missoula’s second annual Gay Holiday Soirée is taking advantage of the new space at the Zootown Arts Community Center and opening up its Christmas bash to all ages.

“We have a very inclusive mission and we want everyone to feel welcome so we thought this was a good fit for us,” said Mikyla Veis, marketing, events, and community outreach coordinator for the ZACC.

This year The Center, western Montana’s LGBTQ+ community center based in Missoula, teamed up with the ZACC to allow for an all-ages event that encourages everyone to attend.

Last year’s holiday soirée was 21 and up, which Andy Nelson, director of The Center, said left out some younger people wanting to attend.

“There were a lot of younger folks, like students and even people under 18 that were like, ‘I really wanted to come and there’s not a lot of gay events like this that we can attend,’” Nelson said. “And we really wanted them to attend this year.”

So they’ll instead use wrist bands to designate who is 21 and up.

The night kicks off with a beer and wine cocktail hour meet-and-greet at 7 p.m., followed by a drag show from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., something the ZACC’s new Show Room will also be able to amplify with its modular stage.

“We can create whatever set anyone would desire,” Veis said. “And so for drag shows, we can create a catwalk.”

This year’s show, put on by the Imperial Sovereign Court of the State of Montana, features some of Missoula’s favorite performers, but will also bring in a new crop of kings and queens of the catwalk, Nelson said.

“I know that there are a lot of new folks that have gotten into the drag scene in the last year,” Nelson said. “So there will be a lot of up-and-coming drag performers in Missoula that are excited to showcase their talents.”

After the performance, the room will be opened up for a dance party. There will be beer and wine for sale, as well as cookies and other holiday goodies. Attendees can also enter a 50/50 raffle, with half of the proceeds going to The Center and half to the raffle winner.

Nelson said the soirée is an LGBTQ+ event, but is open to anyone who wants to attend, which is part of why they’re holding it at the ZACC.

“The ZACC in general is very open and affirming, like our mission to be open and affirming to all people no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Up until 2018, it had been several years since The Center had thrown a holiday party, which used to be a regular event. Nelson said the plan is to make it an annual happening again.

Costumes, holiday attire and ugly Christmas sweaters are encouraged. The event is all-ages and family-friendly, but attendees under 18 must be accompanied by a guardian. Tickets cost $10 and can be purchased at zootownarts.org or at the door. Proceeds support The Center.

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