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Beards Versus Drag Queens: Just a Typical Afternoon in Austin

Water, the outdoors, music: all things Austinites enjoy, especially when the weather is nice. And all three can go well with some type of beverage in hand.

That was the case during this weekend’s Aqua Olympics. The fourth annual family/tattoo/dog-friendly event, presented by Fun Fun Fun Fest, took over Fiesta Gardens on Saturday afternoon. Events included classic outdoor games like a potato sack race, balloon toss and a ‘6-legged’ race. And, in typical Fun Fun Fun Fest fashion, there were activities like a paddleboard joust on Lady Bird Lake, a taco cannon, a belching contest, and a ‘lagoon launch’ where some of Austin’s best BMX bikers shot down a ramp, flew and flipped through the air, landing in the lake. For many, it could be considered a typical Austin afternoon.

“There’s no Starbucks here,” said James Moody, founder of Transmission Events, creators of the Fun Fun Fun Fest and the folks behind much of Austin’s live music and entertainment. "There’s no McDonalds. I think the thing that feels very Austin about this is that it’s very community-oriented, driven by the creative class - but not on purpose. Everyone is down to have a good time.”

The Aqua Olympics are part marketing ploy for this fall’s Fun Fun Fun Fest, which boasts musical acts such as Judas Priest, Alt-J and Nas; comedians such as Fred Armisen and director John Waters, as well as an array of skate, ride and wrestling sports. But, the Aqua Olympics have also brought back an Austin tradition from years gone by.

“Many years ago in Austin, there used to be a north versus south tug-of-war,” says Moody. “I didn’t live here at the time, but I always heard stories: North Austin versus South Austin, the yuppies versus hippies. And we wanted to do our version of that.”

So, with a length of cord, that Moody says, may possibly be “the only rope in Austin that can extend across [Lady Bird] Lake,” the Aqua Olympics have brought Austin's tug-of-war tradition back to life. Previous Aqua Olympic tug-of-war teams have included Mayor Leffingwell, the Texas Rollergirls and City Council members Mike Martinez, Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo. This year’s competitors were especially eye catching: bearded wonders, the Austin Facial Hair Club, pitted against members of Austins’LGBTQ and drag scene, the Tug Boat Queens.

“Austin’s been having a major moment in drag,” said Jeremy von Stilb, who helped organize his team, the Tug Boat Queens. “There have been a lot of girls turning it out really hard. [The tug-of-war] is a cool opportunity to come weird everyone out a little bit with our queeniness.”

Competing for the Tug Boat Queens, Kitty Buick added that preparing for the tug-of-war meant lots of pushups, and lip liner.

When it came time for the tug-of-war, all eyes were on the lake. It was good battle, with both sides having big moments among wild cheers from the crowd that watched from the lake’s north shore. But ultimately, it was the Austin Facial Hair Club who won, eventually pulling several of the Tug Boat Queens into the water.

Not at all sore losers, the Tug Boat Queens said it was all in good fun. 

“We’re forming an alliance," said Buick and Stilb. "Which no one saw coming. We thought The Austin Facial Hair Club was sexy. They were scared of us. But now we think they have a little crush on the Tug Boat Queens.”

You can see more photos from the tug-of-war and the Aqua Olympics activities above in our slide show, as well as on KUT’s Flickr page. Fun Fun Fun Fest takes place November 7-9th at Auditorium Shores.

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