Every year, inevitably, the question will be asked of LGBT people, “Why do you need a Pride festival?” This question is asked by almost everyone, no matter his or her opinions of queer people or civil rights. It’s usually asked innocently, sincerely. For me personally, the only time the question gets annoying is when it’s followed with, “You don’t see straight people throwing a Straight Pride Parade.” When this “gotcha” statement (with its implied accusation of hypocrisy) is expressed, then I know what kind of person I’m talking to.

But for the most part, the question is genuine, so I’ll take up some space to answer it for myself. Pride festivals are a way for those of us who are 3% of the population to, just for a day, experience being the majority. One day a year, those of us who grew up feeling different, keeping secrets, being afraid … those of us who were told by our families, our churches, our friends, our leaders, our neighbors that we should feel shame for being who we are, can go to an event that’s all about feeling proud of who we are.

But it doesn’t have to be that serious. It’s not just about overcoming bigotry.

Queer people need spaces and events that we can call our own. We will always gravitate to these spaces. And if we move to a place that doesn’t have them, we will form them, no matter how small. Or we will travel to them (I attended pride festivals in Chicago and St. Louis before we had the UP Center). We always will. And it won’t matter that we’re accepted, or that we live in welcoming, supportive, gay-friendly cities. We’ll want these spaces and events. We’ll need these spaces and events.

And the reason for this is that (in this sense, at least) we’re just like everybody else. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t, at one time or another, seek out others who have similar beliefs, interests, experiences, pasts, etc. We do it for support and comradery. All people have things about themselves that place them in a minority from the larger group. It can be who they are ethnically, or racially, or (in this context) sexually. Or it can be a health issue or disability. Or something terrible, like abuse or grief. Or a particular spirituality or political ideology. Or it can be something fun like a particular sport, or SCA, comic-con, role-players. Do any of you know competitive bridge players? If you do, then you know what I’m talking about.

We’re just doing what everyone else enjoys doing, gathering with others with whom we share important, meaningful experiences and identities.

There are still those who would prefer that, if we must gather together, that we keep it indoors, in small, dark rooms, perhaps a bar. Last week, Kevin Bowersox-Johnson spoke about this on Smile Politely’s radio show:

We’ve had a little push back. Nothing that we didn’t expect, but we have had people that refused to be vendors, people that refused to put signs up, and my response to that is to let the community know that that’s still happening, so that we can come back in full force and prove them wrong. We are deserving of being here; we contribute to this community greatly; and there’s no better way to show them how much we contribute than by getting more of us together.

Pride festivals are fun for everyone, young or old; gay or straight. They’re a magnificent way for the entire community to have a great time together. But most importantly, they serve a small minority of the population by providing us a day or two to simply celebrate and enjoy being who we are. I can’t say it better than Kevin: “The purpose of a pride festival in Champaign-Urbana is to provide an opportunity for [queer people and our allies] to get together and celebrate the community and its accomplishments.”


And now, enough of the lecture. On to the fun! We’re in for a treat this year. The UP Center has fully partnered with Fluid Events and 88 Broadway, and the festival has expanded and grown. They’ve added a third stage, and for the first time, part of the festival will be outside. This will please many festival goers, some of whom, in the past, have expressed distaste at holding the event indoors. To them, it felt too much like being put back in the closet, "which is a bad thing for our community," said Kevin. "But thanks to our sponsors, we were able to work with them to give people what they asked for: to go outside and make the festival bigger. And in response, we’re hoping to get everybody out here.”

The theme this year is “Community Pride,” and the purpose is to bring all of our community together with performances, games, workshops, food and drink, and even candidate forums.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7

Murder Mystery Dinner Date with Death: A Queer Encounter

Cocktails, 5:30 | Show, 7:00 | Food, 7:30 p.m.

Every year, the UP Center holds a Gala fund-raiser, and this year it combined the Gala with Pride. Thus, we have a Murder Mystery dinner. This play was adapted from a script owned by the Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company, who will perform. Piato Cafe will cater the meal. Enjoy a “seven corpse” dinner, “guess Who Dun It,” and win prizes.

Plot:

The latest RealiTV show Date a Hunk comes to town, and you are invited to the live filming of the final episode where the handsome bachelor will make his choice between the two finalists, a drag queen and a gay-lister (i.e., an Anderson Cooper-type). Will there be wedding bells? Will the disgruntled heterosexual, a formerly well-known reality TV star get his way and shut the show down? Or will the outcome be more...?

How to Play:

Date with Death: A Queer Encounter is an audience-interactive murder mystery event. The actors mingle with the guests through cocktails and dinner, having conversations with the guests and with each other. Watch and listen closely! We encourage ALL guests to snoop, eavesdrop, and be nosy.

There may be arguments, secret liaisons, notes passed, deals done, loves lost and found, agreements made and broken. After dinner, one (or maybe more) of the characters die. An investigator takes charge to question suspects and find the murderer, with the help of the audience. Guests may become as involved as they like, and are encouraged to invent their own roles and relationships to the cast.

Prizes:

Grand Prize:

Three-Night trip for two to San Francisco Pride 2013
(Hotel: Le Meridien in downtown SF)
(Flight: Thanks to GayOrbitz.com – two $450 vouchers)

Other prizes:

  • 2 Pairs of Season Tickets to CUTC Theatre Company
  • 2 Shares for 1 Week from Piato's Organic Food Nanny
  • Common Ground Gift Certificates
  • Wine & Cheese Tray from Art Mart
  • 2 Three-Month Passes to Charter Fitness
  • 20 Car Washes from Triple-T
  • 2 Five-Class Passes from Amara Yoga
  • 3 Three-Free Visit Gift Certificates to Urbana Acupuncture
  • 2 $15 Gift Certificates from Wind, Water, & Light

Dinner Menu (by Piato Cafe):

  • Mixed Greens Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Carrots, Croutons and Dressings
  • Homemade Olive Bread
  • Fresh Steamed Green Beans
  • Garlic and Rosemary Infused Mashed Potatoes
  • Crown Breasted Chicken
  • White Wine Marinated Chicken Breasts stuffed with Mushrooms, Swiss and Parsley in a Almandine Cream Sauce
  • Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna
  • Dessert Table: Banana Cream Pies, Mixed Berry Shortcakes and Chocolate Covered Strawberries

~~*~~

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8

Festival, Noon2:00 a.m.

The festival is family-friendly from noon–7:00 p.m., with carnival games, bounce houses, temporary tattoos, face painting, foam party, live animals from Scovill Zoo (1:00–4:00 p.m.), and more. FYI, some of these activities are not free, but parents can pay $10/child for unlimited play.

This is a preliminary list of selected performances and entertainment, and is subject to change. I do not have times for the performances, but you can check out the website for more details and updates.

UPDATE: The final schedule has been posted.

Main Stage (South Parking Lot):

Kick Off
Drag Performance
The Tusken Raiders
The Mourning After
Family Foam Party
Desafinado
Illini Contraband
Mike & Kayla
The Dirty Feathers
Stigma
Jariko (with backup dancer, Cloud)
Adult Foam Party w/Milk & Cookies

Stage 2 (Indoors):

DJ Ringo
Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company
Classy Combinations
Duke of Uke and His Novelty Orchestra
The Diva and The Dude
Dawna Nelson & The Impalas
Local History Presentation
T.R.U.T.H. (Tierney Reed)
Lance Keene
Stephen Leonard
Youth Drag
Drag Performances
Comedienne, Jesse Long
Carnivàle Debauche
Drag Performances
Dance
Gypsy Hips

Stage 3 (Food Court):

Station Theatre
Stone Creek Performers
Drag Performances
Zoo Improv
Katie Flynn
Abe Froman Project

Education:

What Does It Mean to be an Ally?
Local Queer History
Youth Drag 101 (Pre-Registration Required)
Engaging Your Elected Officials
Candidate Forum (see list of candidates here)

Food vendors:

Mamma D’s Smokehouse
Shanghai 1938
Coors Light Beer Tent
Piato Cafe


~~*~~

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 9

Dish It UP: Post-Pride Brunch, 10:00 a.m.2:00 p.m.

Put the final touches on your C-U Pride Fest weekend with a brunch hosted by the UP Center! Piato Cafe will provide a delicious brunch and 88 Broadway is generously providing complementary mimosas. Start your day with a delicious meal and drag performances by five of C-U’s favorite Queens.

 

Menu:

  • Fresh Fruit Salad
  • Assorted Pastries
  • Sausage Patties
  • Bacon
  • Pancakes
  • Biscuits and Gravy
  • Hash Browns
  • Omelet Station


Having attended the first two Pride Festivals, I’m really overwhelmed with how much this year’s has grown. And I’m especially impressed with (and grateful for) the numerous, generous sponsors. I hope that you all attend this year. And if you do, join in the foam party! Hell, you only live once!

~~*~~

C-U Pride Fest is free and open to the public. However, this event is a fund-raiser with all proceeds going to the UP Center. A donation is suggested and appreciated.

Ticketed events:

Pre-Pride Murder Mystery Dinner, $40 per person
Buy tickets here

Post-Pride Sunday Brunch, $25 per person
Buy tickets here

Bundled package, $50
Buy ticket here

For more information, go here, or here, or here.