Pride Fest moving to downtown Champaign
URBANA — Champaign-Urbana’s annual Pride Fest is moving outdoors to downtown Champaign and adding a parade to make it more inclusive.
“It’s for the entire community,” says Heath Peterson, chairman of the event being presented by the UP (Uniting Pride) Center of Champaign County.
Ask columnist Tom Kacich for his thoughts on the Pride Fest and parade — or on any other topic — here.
Set for Sept. 6, it will be the fifth annual festival the organization has held, Peterson said. Previous ones have been held indoors at Lincoln Square, but organizers felt it was time to bring it outdoors and expand it with a parade, he said.
“In the typical pride celebration, in most of the larger cities, you’ll find that they are always outside in the open, where a lot of people can attend,” Peterson said.
And he said, “we’d love to have families.”
In years past, the Pride Fest held inside Lincoln Square has drawn 2,000 to 3,000 people, and the organization is hoping to about double the crowd to 5,000, Peterson said.
And hopefully there will be even more people coming to the parade, which is set to follow the same route as the city’s annual holiday Parade of Lights, he said.
What can be expected for the parade?
Local organizations will take part, and probably some of the politicians, Peterson said.
“I think it’s safe to say, we’ve encouraged everyone to be family-friendly, and know that there will be children in attendance,” he said. “So while we don’t want to necessarily infringe on people’s expression, we do try to limit it.
“There won’t be open nudity and profanity of that nature.”
The community does have a strong drag-queen population that will be represented, Peterson said, “but I think it will be done very tastefully.”
The festival will take place on the parking lot by the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum, 346 N. Neil St., Peterson said.
There will be both activities through the afternoon and evening parties at downtown bars beginning at 9 p.m.
The parade will run from 5 to 6 p.m., in time for traffic from an 11 a.m. University of Illinois home football game against Western Kentucky to clear.
The festival will include a clothing exchange for the trans community with a private and safe environment indoors to try on clothes, Peterson said. It can be a challenge for men who want to dress in women’s clothes to go into stores and try them on in dressing rooms intended for women, he said.
His organization is still accepting vendor and parade applications through mid-August and has had a good response from the city of Champaign about moving the event downtown, he said.
“They said they were really excited that we were bringing this to downtown Champaign and they couldn’t wait to be a part of it,” he said.
According to Kris Koester, a spokesman for the Champaign Public Works Department, the city’s response was it will do anything it can to include and recognize more people.
Champaign already blocks off streets for such events as the Blues, Brews and BBQ Festival; Bloomington Gold Corvette Show; Mariposa Music Festival; Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon; and Parade of Lights, and will follow the usual procedure for posting signs about closures the day beforehand and closing and reopening streets on the day of the pride festival event, he said.