Celebrating CU Pride Weekend
If you’ve never experienced Pride Weekend in Champaign-Urbana, you’re in for a real treat. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the event, and thanks to the tireless effort of UP Center year round and especially during the months leading up to Pride, Pride 2019 is set to be the best year yet. Let’s talk about the various things you can do to celebrate Pride Weekend in Champaign-Urbana, and ways to make this weekend and life in the greater Champaign County area #AmazingForAll.
Wednesday and Thursday
PrideFest gets a bit of a head start before the weekend thanks to some film screenings. On Wednesday, September 25th at 7pm, catch 5B, the inspirational story of everyday heroes, nurses and caregivers who took extraordinary action to comfort, protect and care for the patients of the first AIDS ward unit in the United States. The film will be screened at the McKinley Foundation. On Thursday, September 26th, The Art Theater hosts The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson at 7pm. Marsha P. Johnson was one of the icons of the gay rights movement in the 1960s, the self-described "street queen" of NY's gay ghetto, and founded the Transvestites Action Revolutionaries with fellow luminary Sylvia Rivera. When Johnson's body was found in the Hudson River in 1992, police called it a suicide and didn't investigate. In David France's new documentary, trans activist Victoria Cruz seeks to uncover the truth of her death while celebrating her legacy.
Lastly, before we get into the weekend, consider checking out the Spurlock Museum’s exhibit, In Her Closet: How to Make a Drag Queen. The exhibit runs from now until May 3, 2020.
PrideFest weekend kicks off at 7pm with the CU PrideFest Kick-Off and Art Show. Hosted at Quality Bar and curated by Christopher Morris, enjoy drinks to kick off the weekend and surround yourself in local, queer art. At 9:30pm, walk over to Seven Saints for the CU PrideFest Kick-Off Party! For a $10 cover, grab a drink and get ready for some incredible drag performances at 10:30pm, followed by performance from the touring drag performance group, Caravan of GLAM.
Begin Day Two of PrideFest weekend at 9am with a Pride Hike at Meadowbrook Park! With giveaways and a refreshing hike to get the day started, it’s a wonderful way to wake up and kickoff an amazing day. At 1pm, the first PrideFest Workshops begin at Big Grove Tavern. Topics for these sessions range in scope and subject, but all are intended to improve the understanding of crucial LGBTQ+ topics. Also at 1pm, the PrideFest Vendor Fair’s Main Stage kicks off some incredible entertainment, including performances by The Autocorrect, Feel Free, CU Fabulous Entertainment & Amasong!
At 3pm, the PrideFest Parade kicks off from Walnut & Main, continuing all over downtown Champaign. This year's parade is led by Sam Brinton, Head of Advocacy and Government Affairs at the Trevor Project, a national organization focused on LGBTQ youth suicide prevention. The parade features a broad cross-section of our local community, both queer and ally.
After the parade, the night is far from over! Bently’s Pride Celebration is a parking lot party that goes all night, featuring DJs and a $5 cover that goes to the UP Center. More PrideFest Workshops kick off at 5pm at Big Grove Tavern, so be sure to return to hear more interesting topics and conversations on LGBTQ+ struggles and successes. Also at 5pm, the Hyatt in Downtown Champaign is hosting this year’s Parade leader Sam Brinton, discussing his work with the Trevor Project. This is in collaboration with Rattle the Stars, our local suicide prevention and awareness non-profit to not only commemorate pride month, but also Suicide Prevention Month!
Feeling the post-PrideFest Parade blues? Shake them off and get to the Cityview Banquet and Meeting Center for the Drag Brunch! A favorite occurrence every year for PrideFest, a buffet and cash bar keep your hunger and thirst in check while you watch some incredible drag performances. The beloved local performers hitting the stage during brunch are:
Asianah Bee Carrington
Carnivale Debauche (vaudeville/burlesque troupe)
Span K. Nightly
Additionally, see these members of Caravan of GLAM perform:
Nae Nae Dominatrix (as seen on American Idol)
Jayla Rose Sullivan (as seen on Americas Got Talent)
Amora Dior Black ("The Bruce Lee of Drag")
At 2pm, the Art Theater is also keeping the Pride party going with the first annual SWIRL Queer Film Festival. A collection of short films and feature lengths are taking place with various showings at 2, 4, 6, and 8. If you can’t make it to the entire day, no worries! Each showing is different, but you can come for some and then go, or stay for it all!