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This Christmas season, Conni Smudge isn't letting the haters get her down

The North Shore’s favourite drag queen is spreading joy and understanding at afternoon 'snack and chats' Tuesdays and Thursdays before Christmas
Conni Smudge, a.k.a. Chris Bolton, co-founder of the North Shore Pride Alliance, said a man angrily protested a library reading event a couple of weeks ago. | Nick Laba / North Shore News

Did you know Mrs. Claus has a cousin? Her name is Conni Smudge and she’s come from the North Pole in her worldly travels to spread love, joy and understanding to all the kids of the Lower Mainland.

“I’ve even got a little phone line direct to the toy shop,” said Smudge, a.k.a Chris Bolton. “Sometimes Santa comes on, but it’s mostly Elf Number 1 that comes on and helps asking questions with the kids.”

If you or your little ones would like to get any last-minute requests in with the North Pole, Smudge is hosting “snack and chats” Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at a parklet outside Tea Time on Lonsdale Avenue. Smudge is available for photographs, and there are hot drinks and other treats on site. Donations to the North Shore Pride Alliance are welcomed.

During a block party this Thursday evening, Bolton said the response has been really good so far. On a given night, dozens of people stop by for a visit.

“Some of the kids are just shocked that I can talk to Santa,” he said. “They’re absolutely mesmerized.”

A couple of people have walked by, and Smudge is not their vibe, Bolton said. “They just keep walking, which is totally fine.”

After an incident at North Vancouver City Library a couple of weeks ago, Bolton was worried there could be some issues. But he said everything has been OK so far.

During a Drag Queen Storytime event, where Smudge reads books to kids, a man made an inappropriate remark and then started yelling at the kids and parents, Bolton said. He added that the library had a contingency plan in place, and the man was ushered out quickly.

The kids were kind of oblivious, “But they were a bit taken aback by the volume and the anger coming from this guy,” Bolton said. “And I just said, ‘Oh my, someone’s having a very bad day. Let’s just say goodbye.' And all the kids turned around all innocent and were like, ‘Bye-bye!’”

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years – I can protect myself,” he said. “But I don’t want to have an event that I’m involved with to be a reason that a kid would be either scarred or damaged or anything like that.”

If the same guy shows up at the parklet, Bolton plans to drown him out by blasting Aretha Franklin’s Respect. If needed, he also has a direct line to police.

“We have to stand up against the haters – they can’t win,” he said.

Bolton emphasizes there’s nothing sexual about his drag routine. If anything, kids see him as a Disney character, he said.

“Anything that I can do to combat that kind of negative energy with being even more positive, and being even more loving, I think that’s the only way you can win people over,” Bolton continued.

There’s a little boy that shows up at each of Smudge’s storytime events. “And he looks up at me like I’m the Last Unicorn.”

Bolton explained that he’s really made an impact with the boy, who feels comfortable playing with whatever toys he wants – trucks and dolls.

“That’s what it should be – that all kids be authentic and be themselves. That’s really what I’m here for.”

Snack and chat with Mrs. Claus’s Cousin Conni!

Where: Pride Parklet on Lonsdale Avenue near 14th Street

When: Dec. 13, 15 and 20, 3-5 p.m.

Admission: Free. Donations to North Shore Pride Alliance welcomed