In June 2016, shortly after the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando, members of a Lakeside Pride musical ensemble took a photo of their spectators at a pride event; everyone in the photo was each forming hearts with their arms. That picture was intended to send love back to Orlando residents and anyone else still reeling from the mass shooting.
The photo, recalled Lakeside Pride Board Member at Large Brandon Strawn, was "emblematic of what Lakeside Pride truly is. We're a community first and a band second."
Strawn spoke at the organization's 25th-anniversary celebrationwhich took place at Center on Halsted on Oct. 8and welcomed numerous past and present members.
Lakeside Pride now has about 400 members across 14 different groups, noted Board Chair Jonathan Alvares, who called the group a "powerhouse." Alvares recalled attending his first musical practice: "I didn't realize [then] that I would be extending my family by several hundred people."
Three of the group's five foundersRhonda Tullis, Robert Schultz and David Morckalso spoke at the gathering, each expressing joy and amazement regarding the organization's growth. Mary Wallace and Jon Dallas were the other co-founders of the group.
Schultz called Lakeside Pride a "lifesaver," adding, "There's never been anything better than playing percussion" with with the group.
Tullis said such growth "takes a lot of work and love…Take this in: Twenty-five years. You don't take it for granted."
Morck added, "Let's face itwe're all geeks here and that's what makes it so much fun."
Musical directors Stephen Carey, Kyle Rhoades and Manic Maxxie also remarked on the work performances require, as well as the gratitude and graciousness Lakeside Pride receives back from the community.
"Most of my best friends I have met through Lakeside, and most of my worst enemies I have made through Lakeside," said Rhoades. "…I have been involved with Lakeside longer than anything else in my life."
Maxxie recalled asking permission to lead performances in drag, and was overjoyed when "the answer was not, 'Why would you want to do that?' It was, 'Why wouldn't you?"
Carey commented on playing at the Aurora and Buffalo Grove Pride parades, events that took place specifically because of activism within those cities: "When we're out there in the community, we're not out there just for us. We're out there with a purpose."
Various Lakeside Pride musical ensembles played throughout the evening. Kellee Divine and T.G. Warford emceed the retrospective.
[Disclosure: Reporter Matt Simonette is partners with Morck.]