Chicago’s Pride Fest returns as a safe space for LGBTQ+ community to express itself

By Bianca Kreusel, Deputy Director of Photography

Live music shook North Halsted Street as DJs, drag performers and bands performed throughout the weekend. The streets were packed with people in colorful outfits laughing, cheering and drinking while celebrating Pride Fest a week before the long awaited Pride Parade.

Pride has a deep-rooted history in Chicago, with much of its focus on being open about gender and sexuality. Pride Fest is known as a celebration of diversity, equality and the Chicago LGBTQ+ community and this year’s event was met with a special excitement after having been on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lines stretched down Addison Street with festivalgoers eager to join the fun.

Chicago area businesses also showed their support during Pride Fest. Tanisha McCray is the owner of Just Unwind, a local candle-making shop located in Melrose Park.

“I try to make something anyone can partake in and enjoy,” McCray said. “With the many things people get discriminated against [right now], you should be able to partake in what you like and love who you love.”

Chicago’s pride is not just limited to the local community.

Grayson Papp attended the festival and is the owner of Graysons Movement, a Detroit nonprofit that supplies clothes, binders, boxers and other gender affirming items and hygiene products to those in need. Papp also owns Cuddles and Blunts and sells clothing with 15% of sales donated to surgery funds for the trans community.

“Right now, the world is pretty hateful on the community as a whole, and I think being here with like-minded people helps bring awareness and the community together,” Papp said. “We’re here to spread the joy all the way from Detroit.”

Another business from Detroit, called Revival Threads, also came out to show support. The owner, Brit Wheeler, creates inclusive clothing for all genders and states her clothing does not have a gender.

“Our goal is to make sure everybody has something cute to wear,” Wheeler said. “We’re all a little bit different but at the end of the day we’re all a little bit the same. To come and show our love and support … I think it’s extremely important right now [because] there’s so many people’s rights being taken away.”