I was out and about at the C-U Pride Fest, taking pics and taking part this past weekend. Now in it’s eighth year, CU Pride Fest is the only festival in East Central Illinois celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer culture and building awareness about the work of community to become a more welcoming place for all. CU Pride Fest is sponsored by the Uniting Pride (UP) Center of Champaign County, the only LGBTQ+ resource center in the greater east central Illinois region, serving clients through support groups, guest speakers, community events, referrals, and resources.
I took part in some of the kick-off festivities on Friday, catching some performances by LGBTQ-identifying musicians at 51 Main. I then headed over to Soma Lounge to get my funny bones tickled by the stand-up stylings of Chicago-based comedians Whitney Chitwood who identifies as lesbian and Shannon Noll who identifies as genderqueer. Captivating storytelling and swift one-two punch lines delivered a great night of comedy. I left Soma glad that I got to hear some comedy by people other than straight people.
On Saturday, I popped by the kids and family area just before the start of the Pride parade to say hello to community organizations and see kids execute some solid bubble-making techniques and thoroughly enjoy the bounce (inflatable) houses (palaces). I caught up with some groups and took a gander at floats just as the parade stepped off from the corner of Main & Walnut. People observed, waved, hugged, kissed, danced, high-fived, logged into their Instagram accounts, sweated, waved more, hooted, hollered and stuffed skittles into their pockets. I was so grateful to see so much love for community and so much fondness for sugar.
After eating several tacos and enjoying a long, sweaty nap with my cats in my apartment, I biked down to 51 Main to catch some of the Official Pride After Party action, hosted by Amy “Taco, Taco” Myers. Dang! I missed the Gia Gunn show, one of the headliners that evening. Though I did catch some fantastic Boylesque performances, featuring a librarian, a spiderman, and an animated gingerbread boy. Then, it was onto the drag show! Unfortunately, this rookie forgot to charge her flash; so, sans flash for the drag, I waited until a queen would would power step into some spotlight. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed taking pics of the performances, albeit in a specifically limited way!
I didn’t make it to the Drag Brunch the next day, but did enjoy the smoked shrimp and cheesy grits off the new brunch menu at Black Dog and seeing all of my friends’ photos from CU Pride Fest show up in social media news feeds.