From East Monroe Street to East Jackson Drive, Pride in the Park covered just the right amount of territory in the Grant Park area in downtown Chicago on June 25 and 26. Butler Field was overrun with rainbows following a Saturday rain as single-file lines designed to enter the space grew long. For some, it was a lesson in patience, but once safely inside the crowd was ready to celebrate in a variety of ways.
Once again, the performance lineup was the anchor for the event. The curators of the festivities booked straight-identifying big-name electronic dance music acts (for example, The Chainsmokers and Swedish DJ Alesso) to enhance ticket sales instead of choosing from the wide array of musicians who are out and proud these days.
There were several queer artists who came out to party in the park with their fans though such as bisexual singer Daya, YouTuber Rebecca Black and transgender DJ Moore Kismet. Openly gay rapper Saucy Santana encouraged spectators in front to come onstage and dance. A long line of rump-shakers formed to back up the outspoken artist as Santana lived up to his namesake in every way possible.
RuPaul's television stars were well represented at the outdoor carnival thanks to Monet X Change, who is currently a contestant for RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars season seven. Local drag champion Shea Coulee is also presently on season seven and brought several members of the Coulee family to perform on Sunday. Winner of the first season of Canada's Drag Race Priyanka, slayed on the CircuitMOM Stage with catchy lyric live singing and strong high-heeled dance moves.
Matthew Harvat, also known as CircuitMOM, returned to Pride in the Park to host and produce a side stage full of talent. Even with some scattered rain on Saturday, this group kicked up the festivities and kept things running smoothly, thanks to the professional and exuberant execution of constant entertainment.
The vendor booth section has grown in size every year since Pride in the Park began in 2019. A whole section of outreach health care companies such as AIDS Healthcare Foundation and its Latin-focused affiliate, CALOR, were on hand to perform rapid HIV testing and create awareness. Additionally, cannabis-associated companies have brought their budding businesses to Pride-centered events recently, such as Pride Fest and Pride in the Park. Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana and Pride in the Park official hotel Fairmont Chicago gave out free swag and ran contests at their individual booths on the tented strip. Food vendors fed the ravenous crowd who waited patiently in challenging lines at times. Arriving early paid off for festival-goers as the later acts brought in some rowdy and rambunctious rainbow-clad party people.
Very important people could escape that by purchasing an express entry, a personal host and air-conditioned bathrooms for a more relaxed experience if desired. VIP areas gave a bird's eye view thanks to a raised covered area or up-close opportunities offered in the pit in front of the Pride Stage. On top of that, VIP tables complete with bottle service ranged from $1,500 to $4,000, and a deposit was required beforehand when booking the tickets.
Pre-parties at Cerise Rooftop in the Virgin Hotel and after-parties such as He.She.They at Concord Music Hall extended the celebration outside of Pride in the Park's regular hours.
Visit PrideParkChi.com for information on next year's festival.