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Chuckwalla “Queens of the Desert” Event

by Linda Castro, Assistant Policy Director


CalWild and Friends of the Desert Mountains staff joined other organizational members of the Protect California Deserts coalition to host a unique and incredibly fun bus tour of the proposed Chuckwalla National Monument.  The bus tour, called Chuckwalla Queens of the Desert, was intended to not only include a tour of a portion of the proposed national monument, but was also intended to be a Pride Month celebration.


The first bus stop of the evening, near the western boundary of the proposed national monument, was the former location of Camp Young, which was the headquarters of the U.S. Army’s Desert Training Center from 1942 to 1944.  CalWild staff provided bus passengers with historical information about the Desert Training Center and Camp Young, including the fact that the United Service Organizations (USO) and others often performed at Camp Young. This was because it had the most permanent facilities and contained the most improved quarters of the divisional camps in the Desert Training Center.  The location provided an appropriate and stunning background for the two drag performances that followed. FODM staffer Karin Jaffie (aka Kit Tapata) gave an incredible performance dressed as a chuckwalla, and another captivated the audience further as she sang and danced to the 1941 hit tune “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” by The Andrews Sisters.


Other stops were made along Box Canyon Road, also near the western boundary of the proposed monument, at which passengers were treated to several additional drag performances.  As the bus traveled through the canyon, the passengers “oohed” and “awed” over the overall beauty of the canyon, especially the colorful rock formations.  At the last location, the bright Strawberry Moon lit up the sky for the grand finale, which included all of the drag performers and the audience.


CalWild recognizes that the LGBTQ+ community is an incredibly important part of the Coachella Valley’s identity.  We also greatly appreciate the support for the Chuckwalla National Monument proposal that we have received from Coachella Valley small businesses that identify as LGBTQ-owned.  We were honored to help host this event.


Happy Pride Month!