The UP (Uniting Pride) Center of Champaign County recently sponsored their second annual Pride Fest at Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana, IL. Approximately 2,000 people attended this year, and we raised nearly $3000. Co-Chairs, Caroline Nappo and Evelyn Tardy, returned to coordinate the event after the rousing success in 2010. Held on August 20th, the event was scheduled to coincide with the University students’ return to the area. This year’s theme was “Pride Makes It Better,” which coincided nicely with the new state legislature legalizing civil unions. Champaign-Urbana boasts the third largest LGBT population in the state, making it an ideal location for a central Illinois Pride Festival.
The family friendly event included bouncy houses and and before long, the mall was full of kids in fancy face paint! Lincoln Square Mall eatery Piato and Piato Too again provided noshes, with 88 Broadway offering a full bar and refreshments for the adult crowd. Back by popular demand, Piato also offered up their rainbow cupcakes! There was a stilt-walker on hand lavishing Mardi-gras beads on lucky visitors and the scene was completed with music and laughter galore. The family portion of the night ended at 9pm, followed by an immediate after party at 88 Broadway with performances through the night.
Returning this year to emcee the event was the always stunning Leiloni Stars, who also performed throughout the evening. Female impersonators: Aurora Lamont-Carrington, Anita Mann, and Dymond-Champagne Calloway, and male impersonators Freddie Fahrenheit and TJ Taylor shared their talents with the audience. The mall, which opened a second performance space this year to handle the increased demand, was serenaded throughout the night by DJ Randall and DJ Ringo, as well as other live performances by Amasong, Desafinado, and Vanattica. Other local artists and UP Center supporters also performed, including: Tom Meibach, Dona Flor, Alex Miffin, Jamie Marlow, Dawna Nelson, and Susan Requarth. Zoo Improv, Class Act Improv and Carnival Debauche also added variety and hilarity to an already eclectic lineup.
Many new and returning community booths made Pride a wonderful event for artists, local businesses, vendors, organizations and causes. Folks got to network and introduce themselves to the community as LGBT friendly. Local artists Johnell Bentz, Jim Gallagher, Erin Knowles, Meghan Miller, Hillary Pope, and Gregg Rogers all had their works on hand for sale. The University of Illinois LGBT Resource Center, the East Central Illinois Safe School Alliance, Community United Church of Christ, and Acorn Equality Fund provided valuable information and offered their continued support. In all, the event had over 30 vendors and booths on site.