Smile Politely

CU Pride Fest review

This past Friday, I was among 2,500+ people who attended Champaign-Urbana’s first Pride Festival. Many of you were probably there, and though reportage of attendance has been greatly understated, you already know that it was an enormous success. The mall was packed; rumors of protesters turned out to be just that; Dr. David Gill made an appearance; the entertainment was incredible; the drinks at 88 Broadway were strong; and the food was delicious. Seriously, Piato Catering bakes the best cupcakes that I’ve had in this city. They have no equal, at least not here.

So how does C-U’s first effort compare to other Pride Festivals in larger cities? Festivals that have been around much longer? I asked a veteran of Pride. John (his real name) has been to numerous festivals: San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, San Jose, St. Louis, Vancouver, and Washington D.C.:

I’ve had great times at other Pride Fests, but I’ve always felt like I was only an observer; I watched the parade, walked around. But here it felt more like I was actually part of the pride celebration. I mean, the guy who organized the thing [Kevin Johnson] came and hugged me for just showing up. I’m very excited about future festivals.

Thank you to UP Center of Champaign County, University of Illinois LGBT Resource Center, and Fluid Events. Thank you to the entire CU Pride Fest committee. Thank you to the sponsors, performers, the vendors, and those who manned tables. And thank you Champaign-Urbana. We really do live in one of the best cities in the country, don’t we?

And now, I shall shut up and post some photos and videos that highlight just a few of the reasons that this festival was so fantastic.

The vendors, who made sure there was something to interest everyone.









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eCISSA was there!

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Zoo Improv put on a fun performance that welcomed audience participation (I wish we’d taken pictures of more of the troupe!).

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Speak UP performed spoken word poetry that had the crowd on its feet and cheering.












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Amasong put on a great show, as usual. Damn, we’re lucky to have them.


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88 Broadway hosted an incredibly awesome after party.

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Randall Krause and Leiløni StaЯs were there! I’m not ashamed to say that I flailed like a fangirl.












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Master of Ceremonies, Leiløni StaЯs; committee member Phil Reese; The UP Center’s Kevin Johnson

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Smokin’ hot Drag King, TJ Taylor and gorgeous (and just as hot) Drag Queen, Kelasia Karmikal











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Kelasia Karmikal doing her thing and doing it well.

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Evah Envy. Yeah, I gave her money, and I’d do it again.

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This was my first time seeing Carnivàle Debauche. Wow. It won’t be my last. This was one of the sexiest live shows I’ve ever been to.


Three lucky ladies get the personal touch.


Check out our Pride Prom pictures here.

If you’re interested in volunteering for next year’s Pride Festival, or if you’d just like to be informed of future events, register at the UP Center’s site to become a member.

Same time next year, hell yes!


All photos and videos courtesy of John P. Albert.

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