Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Bursting With Pride—Woodstock Pride Fest Comes Roaring Back

In 2019 Woodstock Pride launched the first Pride Fest in McHenry County with astonishing success especially considering that thirty years earlier hardly anyone dared to publicly come out as Gay, Lesbian, or Transgender in our deeply conservative communities.  Although Chicago and some inner suburbs had well established gay bars, other gathering spots, newspapers, support systems, and advocacy organizations, none of that existed out here in the boonies.

In 2019 participants were welcomed to Woodstock Pride Fest under this colorful balloon archway entrance to historic Woodstock Square.

But thanks to courage, hard work, and growing public acceptance nationwide things changed.  And it all erupted in and around Woodstock Square.  I described it in a blog post:

Thousands of happy people descended yesterday on the Square to celebrate Woodstock Pride Fest.  It was a glorious afternoon that scared away the storms that TV weather folk predicted for the afternoon.  Thousands came and went over the five hour event.  They crowded the streets to participate in or cheer on the predictable colorful parade.  They thronged the Square cross walks where vendors, non-profits, advocacy groups, and churches including the Tree of Life Congregation from McHenry did brisk business from their booths.  Folks cheered speakers including Congresswoman Lauren Underwood of the 14th District, bopped to bands and DJs, and whooped it up with Drag Queens.

The crowd was remarkably diverse—lots of families with children and pets, proudly out teens including transgender youth, long-time couples, and older folks who could remember when McHenry County was shutdown, closeted, and fearful.  There were also good numbers of Latino and Black participants.  All mingled happily with straight allies, friends, and family as well as with the simply curious.

Expectations were that 2020 would be even bigger and better.  Then, of course, the Coronavirus pandemic changed everything and kept us hunkered down in our homes avoiding the crowds and human contact of a festival.  The Woodstock Pride folks adapted as well as they could.  They organized a Pride Caravan that wended its way around Woodstock driving past homes and businesses decorated for the occasion.  A few hundred participated but it was not and could not be the same.

But organizers have come roaring back with great plans for a weekend of Pride festivities starting on Friday, June 11 with a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at 5 pm to dedicate the Love is Love Stairway at the southeast corner of East Van Buren and Benton Street.  The dedication is co-sponsored by the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce.

At 7 pm Mixin Mingle, 124 Cass Street will host a gala Drag Variety Show, sure to be an entertainment highlight of the weekend.  Tickets are $10. Many of the performers will also participate in the Parade and Gazebo program on Sunday.

This year there will be an expanded, two day Pride Caravan on Saturday and Sunday.  In their invitation organizers wrote:

It went so well, we’re doing it again! Join us as we walk, drive or bike through Woodstock and view all our participating friends and allies celebratory displays! View the inspiring camaraderie and pride of your neighbors as we decorate, design, glitter and glam up our living spaces to unify in self celebration and pride!

How can you participate?

Decorate your front yards/homes with PRIDE inspired displays. Want to get mobile?? Decorate your cars, bikes, strollers, wagons for all to see as you travel from location to location, enjoying the weather, vibes and colors of what makes up our beautiful city, Woodstock!

Promenade locations will be shared to our Promenade Facebook Event on the first day of the event, June 12th.  Visit the event and be sure to select “Going” to receive notification when posted.

On Sunday, June 13 events will include:

11:00 AM—Parade around the Woodstock Square

11:00 AM - 4:00 PM—Vendors and Nonprofits Tables around the Woodstock Square.

12:00 PM - 4:00 PM—Music Performers and Speakers

12:00 PM - 4:00 PM—Food Trucks

Pride Fest is a family friendly event and there will be lots of unvaccinated kids in attendance as well as people from all over the Chicagoland area.  Attendees are asked to wear a mask and try to maintain social distancing.

Rainbow face masks at the Woodstock Pride Booth.  Booths will be setup a little different this year to try and allow for social distancing.

The Old Man at the 2019 Pride Fest Tree of Life UU Congregation booth.

While you are enjoying the Fest, don’t forget to stop by the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation literature and information table in the non-profit group tent.


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