By Ella Henning
Thousnads flocked to the 11th annual Chicago Pride Fest to support and celebrate the GLBT community.
Pride Fest, on Halsted Street in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood, marked the beginning of Chicago’s Pride Week.
This is the first year that the weekend Pride Fest has been held a week prior to the Pride Parade, a move to draw more attention to Pride Week. Traditionally, the festival is held the same weekend as the Pride Parade, which is scheduled this year for June 30.
“This offers us an opportunity to create a week-long celebration of the GLBT community here in Chicago for a longer time period than just one weekend,” Sean Kotwa, co-chair of the Northalsted Business Alliance, told ChicagoPride.com.
The festival itself draws up to 50,000 visitors annually and benefits the Northalsted Business Alliance, a group that works to improve Boystown.
Pride Fest features entertainment, vendors, and arts and crafts geared to the GLBT community.
“There was a guy dressed in a Trojan costume handing out free condoms and another man handing out info cards for free STD testing, I feel like when I leave my purse will have the most random things in it,” said Rachel Martin, 24, of Rogers Park.
Various sponsors contributed to the two-day event, including Bud Light, Red Bull, ChicagoPride.com and Zipcar.
The fest featured two entertainment stages and a dance music stage. Performers included Chicago’s Gay Men’s Chorus, drag queens and comedians.
Stands run by gay clubs such as the Kit Kat Lounge served drinks to attendees while DJs played pop music on the dance stage.
“This is my first Pride Fest and I’m really loving the environment. It’s a total celebration of being different,” said Riley Kazinsky, 21, of Lincoln Park. “Plus everyone is dancing wildly to Beyonce in the middle of the day how could anyone not love this?”
Pride Fest was held from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday on Halsted Street stretching from Addison Avenue to Grace Street. The festival suggested an $8 donation at the entrance gate.
“It’s more crowded than it was downtown on St. Patrick’s Day,” said Kelly Hastings, 20, of Rogers Park. “I can’t wait for the