When first hearing about Champaign-Urbana Pride Fest, my initial reaction was, "Super cool," followed by, "Why wasn't there one before?" Seriously though, why wasn't there one before?

Well, as is the case with most things, it takes not only the desire to have one (and I'd go so far as to venture there's been plenty of desire for such a thing for quite a few years), but also people with the drive to get it done.


And it has gotten done. From the moment a group of people began wondering whether a fest should take place, and why it hasn't taken place before now (generally agreed to have started around the time of the Prop 8 protest in Champaign), to the day of the CU Pride Fest (August 20, 2010), there has been a tremendous outpouring of community support helping with the actual organizers, co-chaired by Evelyne Tardy and Caroline Nappo (who were generous enough to let me interview them for all of this information).

The CU Pride Fest has been organized by the UP Center, with support from the
LGBT Resource Center and Fluid Events. The presenting sponsors are WEFT, the Buzz, and Urban Outfitters (who has donated dashing sunglasses for door prizes).

The fest is truly a community effort, and with many local businesses helping, the organizers have been happy that they've not needed to go out of their way for major sponsors.

There are pre-events still in progress, but the current line up is:

  • Amara Yoga Rainbow Happy Hour on August 20 at 5:30
  • Art display at Café Kopi (three artists for CU Pride Fest are currently on display and will continue until at least the fest)
  • Gay pride displays at the Champaign and Urbana public libraries in the week before the fest
  • An art display at Café Luna (see Trey Coppland's display below)
  • A special GLBT themed trivia night at the ever-popular TNT Trivia at Boltini's the week before the fest (August 17)
  • And in a special post-event, the Art Theater will be showing Hedwig and the Angry Inch from August 20–22

The fest, however, is where things get even better. Starting at 4:00 p.m., the CU Pride Fest will be taking place at Lincoln Square/88 Broadway, with a CU Public Health STD Bus outside for free testing. There will be artist and general information booths, with performances starting around 4:00 p.m., including DJ Mertz, Amasong, Desafinado, Class Act Improv, and more. There will be three, count ‘em, THREE bounce houses for the kids to play in, with vendors for face painting, carnival games, paintings, photos, sculptures, and tarot card readings. It will be fairly family friendly from 4:00 until approximately 9:00 p.m., with food from Piato Catering and Po' Boys BBQ.

To help cover costs for the food, the bounce houses, the carnival games, and an amazing amount of donated raffle prizes, there will be raffle tickets sold throughout the fest for $1.00 each, or six for $5.00. Prizes have been donated by many local businesses, including Rick Orr, Cinema Art Gallery, and Jane Addams Bookstore.

Also, there will be t-shirts on sale for $15.00 (the logo, designed by Brian Hagy, is on the right), which are also available for purchase online.

So far, approximately 30 informational and vendor booths are confirmed, with lots of people wanting to be involved. They needed volunteers, and the outpouring of support was incredible.

At the fest, they will also be selling advance passes for the LGBT film festival at the CU Art Theater in October.

But wait, there's more. Around 9:00 p.m. will be the transitional stage, with vendors and booths closing, DJs spinning and things to do for adults in the interim. Then, around 10:00 p.m. will be the after party. I was assured by both chairs that there will be plenty to do, so please don't leave! The after party sounds fantastic, with a drag show, a late night burlesque show, and dancing. Leiloni Stars will be the night's MC. For up-to-date information on vendors, performances, schedule, and sponsors, check out their website and Facebook event page.

When I learned the timeline for how all of this happened, how much the pride fest committee has put together becomes even more incredible. From the community beginning to really rally around the idea of a pride fest in late spring 2009, to a committee beginning to form to establish the event by January 2010, to getting details in place by June, only to find out that Hessel Park was too restrictive of a venue for their event (not allowing the food, raffle, or t-shirt sales), to completely rearranging everything for the Lincoln Square venue, it's astonishing that this is happening at all. Evelyne Tardy has only positive things to say about the Champaign-Urbana community, the support from volunteers and committee members, and for Fluid Events stepping in to help everything fall into place. Evelyne said that "it was a matter of people taking initiative, with a huge response from the community, and on the Facebook page, the comments are wonderful to see."

They've even made the local news.

While I'm very glad to see this all fall into place, I told Caroline Nappo that I've always been curious about what the point of a pride fest is. I mean, yes, I'm for gay rights, and I completely understand the walks and the rallies and the protests, but what is the point of a festival? She answered that "a public event where those of us who can be out and show happiness is a powerful statement that needs to be made, fulfilling the sense of community. It's one way to get everyone together to congregate and have a demonstration that we exist and we're proud of who we are. It's important for any culture based on notions of identities to have traditions, and we're involving Champaign-Urbana in a tradition starting now, which goes back 40 years, when these fests began happening."

Caroline affirmed that she hopes CU Pride Fest will be an annual event. Part of the reason that this is taking place indoors is to save on costs, but the money from this fest will hopefully go towards an even larger, grander festival next year. For now, it's about seeing how this one goes, who gets involved and is interested, and what kind of attention this generates.

If you enjoy yourself at this fest (and I know I'm planning to), please speak to the UP Center and other booths at the festival for more information, particularly about how to donate your efforts towards next year's festival.

Lovers and Dreamers, your CU Pride Fest Committee (sans Caroline)