LARRY BLACKBURN/Contributed Duchess Kristen Livengood, King Christopher Rounds, Queen Jane Rohrschneider, and Duke Tommy Ryan celebrate a big win for AIDS Help at the coronation ball.

$368,330 raised in eight weeks by four candidates

This crazy eight-week journey started over a couple of beers at trivia night when Jeremy Wilkerson said a second candidate hadn’t signed up to run for Fantasy Fest Queen, something that has never happened. The candidates raise money for AIDS Help. Somehow, a few beers later, I was signed up and figuring out a way to tell my poor husband the crazy news.

This past Friday night at the crowning, I was called up as Duchess of Fantasy Fest. To be honest, it came as a complete shock after 14 exhausting solo fundraising events. I shed a few tears, actually a lot, but realized I am now forever a part of the 28-year history. And, I was never doing this for a crown in the first place.

King Christopher Rounds, Duke Tommy Ryan, Queen Jane Rohrschneider, and I raised the second most amount of money for AIDS Help EVER, something that was only topped by an eight-person campaign in 2003. Now, THAT is something to be proud of and I am honored to have been a part of the journey.

I never saw myself as dancing on stage in front of more than 300 people, or dreamed of the friendships I made or strengthened throughout the process. A week before kickoff and the night I decided to sign up, Jeanine Christiansen wrote my first campaign check and said “doooo it!” and my friend Jessica Kotch started making phone calls to friends to raise the $2,000 seed money to start the campaign.

A few days later, I whispered into Sue Puskedra’s ear that I was going to run, and she immediately got on the phone with 2014 Queen ML and set up a coffee date to set a plan of action.

But, it wasn’t me who raised these funds, or even the other candidates. It was our amazing community who came out to our events, opened their houses to strangers for martinis and little black dresses, restaurants who said “no problem” when asked to host date auctions, concerts, and art auctions, those who bought raffle tickets, came kayaking and mini golfing, sang karaoke every Tuesday for eight weeks, and called BINGO in drag. This money, $368,330 to be exact, is money that our entire community raised together; money that stays local and helps our community members with housing, much needed medicine, insurance premiums, and prevention.

When someone came up to me and said they wouldn’t be alive today without AIDS Help, I knew I did the right thing. Will I run again? Maybe when I’m 60. In the meantime, I’m carrying a 12-pound golden chalice filled with fizzy beverages to toast my amazing community. Long live the royal court.

(Editor’s Note: The Keys Weekly told Kristen she would be fired if she didn’t win the Queen’s crown. On a related note, she was immediately rehired on Monday morning.)


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