Pride Month is starting to show its colors around Chicago

Sun. June 2, 2024 12:13 PM by Ross Forman

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Pride is important because there is Power in Pride,” says Sidetrack general manager Brad Balof

The Rainbow Flag is waving, its colors shining bright in the summer sun … Welcome to Pride Month, 2024. June is 30 days – and nights – to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, culminating locally on Sunday, June 30, with the annual Chicago Pride Parade.

“Pride Month is more important than ever and we have to be motivated and empowered to celebrate our Pride visibly and actively year-round,” said Ricky Martel of The Second City Outlaws, an inclusive 501(c)(3) non-profit charity organization that brings the best country dancing to many local events, including the Pride Parade.

“I expect to have a very fun Pride Month, (but) I also have fears of what the hate-mongers could be planning to unleash against us.

“The Chicago Pride Parade is a wonderful opportunity to fully enjoy the festivity of LGBTQIA+ allyship in a huge crowd and party atmosphere. I don’t want to see the city tamper with it or undermine its growth. The planners of the Parade have done an amazing job pulling it all together and they deserve to be praised and supported.”

Martel added: “Pride Month is hugely important as it brings together all of the letters in LGBTQIA and all of the colors that we are adding to the rainbow. In a world where there are constant forces trying to pit groups against each other, it is more important than ever that we look to everyone in a spirit of inclusivity and we step up to be active allies supporting each other.”

Michael Snell, 60, producer of the annual end-of-the-summer OUT IN THE PARK, the private LBGTQ+ event at Six Flags Great America, has witnessed changes and progress for LGBTQ+ rights over the last 50 years. “To drive around Chicago and see big rainbow flags flying downtown off so many of the big corporations’ buildings is exhilarating and makes you feel proud to be gay,” he said.

“In the 1970s, if a gay couple walked into a hotel and asked for (a room with) one bed, they sometimes would be turned away. Now, hotels and other big businesses know the importance of diversity and inclusion.”

OUT IN THE PARK, held every September, draws about 5,000 from across the rainbow and beyond.

“Celebrate you and your individuality. All year long, but especially (during) Pride Month,” Snell said. “Take part in special events happening during June … it is a time to celebrate.”

There definitely will be a lot of celebrations in June at Sidetrack, one of the most popular destinations for Pride Month activities, both public and private.

Sidetrack also will have Pride versions of their weekly and monthly celebrations, such as OUTspoken storytelling (June 4), All Things K-Pop (Thursdays) and RuPaul’s Drag Race Viewing Parties (Fridays).

June also will feature the Sidetrack Anniversary Customer Appreciation Party (June 13) and a special All Things Beyonce on June 19. Sidetrack hosts an enormous corporate Pride networking and fundraising event, Professionals Do Pride, on Thursday, June 20, and a special Sapphic Saturday on Saturday, June 29.

In addition, Sidetrack will participate in Pride Bar Crawls and have a special Lakeside Pride Wilde Cabaret Performance on Monday, June 24.

“Pride Month is my favorite month of the year.  We always have a lot to celebrate at Sidetrack over Pride Month,” said Sidetrack general manager Brad Balof.

Sidetrack co-owners Art Johnston and Jose 'Pepe' Pena are the Community Grand Marshalls for the Chicago Pride Parade.

“We continue to see far right politicians and evangelical groups try to take our rights away from us. Pride is important because there is Power in Pride,” Balof said. “Being visible, showing up together as a community, is the most politically powerful thing that LGBTQ+ people can do in many cases. And, yeah, we are going to push it in their face a little bit, so that they don’t forget we are still here, we are still queer, and we still are not going anywhere.”

Balof added, “Having Pride and celebrating Pride is not a substitute for voting and staying politically informed.  A lot of people, politicians and/or corporations, say they are ‘supporters/allies/friends’ of the LGBTQ+ community when their actions or the actions of people they put in power indicate otherwise. Stay informed.”

Mike Miller and the team at Big Gay Sal’s Pizza in Lakeview is “thrilled” to join the community in a display of love and unity as the Boystown restaurant is ready to celebrate its first Pride Month.

“We look forward to welcoming a larger audience to discover the unique flavors and warm hospitality that make us special. (In) June, we will come together to show our pride, support one another, and make unforgettable memories,” he said.

“The annual Chicago Pride Parade is a vibrant celebration of love and inclusivity. We hope the parade reconnects with its roots and emphasizes community. We also urge the committee to vet corporate participants, ensuring they support our community year-round. Let’s keep the true spirit of Pride alive!”

Miller added, “Pride Month remains as important as ever in 2024. Now more than ever, we need to show our strength and unity as a community, continuing to fight the good fight for LGBTQ+ rights. Let’s celebrate our progress, support one another and remember to vote to ensure our voices are heard.”

Pride Month kicks off with a parade once again in northwest suburban Buffalo Grove, with the festivities set to start at 11 a.m.

“I expect the usual joy and celebration, but hopefully a drive to get folks to the polls,” said Carolyn Pinta of The Pinta Pride Project, which runs BG Pride, which is in its sixth year. “Pride Month is more important than ever. If (Donald) Trump takes the White House again, it will look very different next year.”

To that, the theme for the 2024 BG Pride is Drag Us To The Polls.

Greg Harris, state representative and majority leader from 2006-2023, is the grand marshal for BG Pride.

Pride Month is a great time to reflect and enjoy life in the gay community, said Paul Cannella of Scarlet Bar in Lakeview. “It’s interesting to see how it evolves and different generations identify within it. Just be you,” he said.

“Sadly, I expect more controversy and the need to be aware. Between the political climate, and it just being a weird time, we all need to watch out for each other, and not split the ranks.”

And simply celebrate.

“I thought once we secured gay marriage, things would normalize. I’ve come to realize the fight will never end. Wave that flag and shout as loud as you can,” Cannella said.

“I just got back from the (rugby) Bingham Cup in Rome, and I attended the first All Trans Rugby match. It blew me away at what an amazing experience it was. I get all the controversy with trans athletes, especially in youth settings, but none of that mattered here. This was 30 adults who paid to fly, stay, train on their own dime, to play one of the toughest sports on this planet, all for the sole reason of participating in competitive sports. It didn’t matter who they were, who they are, or who they were becoming, because the second they stepped onto that pitch, they were rugby players on either the pink or blue team. I was rooting for team pink. I love that rugby can help lead the way to more conversations on this subject at large.”

Matthew Harvat, aka, CircuitMOM of CircuitMOM Productions, has been attending the Chicago Pride Parade since 1988 and said, “it has definitely changed a lot over the years.”

“I miss the days back in the 1990s to mid-2000s where we had 40 or 50 super fun floats packed with every type of person dancing and cheering, mixed in between some marching bands, the giant Jewel shopping cart and a couple politicians for good measure,” Harvat said. “But, times change, people move on, messages take on new identities in the form of corporate entities and a lot of involvement is simply cost prohibitive for businesses these days after the pandemic. The parade is still iconic and a wonderful addition to our lives.”

Pride Month is an exciting time, period. “The energy is always elevated with anticipation for all of the celebrations, parades and scheduled events that traditionally happen for our community,” Harvat said. “It would be great if we could have Gay Pride every day of the year that acknowledges our LGBTQIA+ family. We are who we are inside and out 365 days a year and that alone is worth celebrating and also fighting for. Hopefully, one day, we can accomplish year-round respect, rights and equality.

“For me, this year feels heavy in a way. The political uncertainty definitely weighs on my heart and mind, but my job and my happy place is trying to create good energy, fun events, togetherness and acceptance with the parties we create, and thankfully people come out to support. Here’s to a month filled with joy, music, dancing and glitter … a lot of glitter.”

CircuitMOM Productions has Chicago parties a plenty in 2024, including during Pride Month. And also around North America.

Philadelphia, for instance, for the second year – on June 1-2.

“I am very excited to be included in Chicago’s PrideFest for the first time since 2005 when Lady Bunny, RuPaul and CircuitMOM shared the stage and it was a blast. Now, 19 years later, we are bringing  “The CircuitMOM Experience” to the PrideFest stage on Saturday, June 22, from 8-10 p.m.,” he said.

CircuitMOM also takes her sass on the road for their biggest event for Pride – in Mexico City, to co-produce their first party in Mexico during Latin America Pride. “Our friends at Jubileo invited us to partner with them for the Friday night party, ‘The Abyss’ with DJs Amin Mustafa (Mexico), Mohammad (a CircuitMOM mainstay from San Francisco) and the supreme diva, Anne Louise (Brasil).  Being this is our first time in Mexico City, we are pulling out all the stops for our shows and decorations. We may need our own cargo plane,” Harvat joked.

Turning serious, Harvat added, “Pride Month was meant to bring people together, to regroup as a community, to find our persons, to find our tribes that uplift us but still keep it real, to celebrate self-acceptance and respect differences and to be activists for our betterment. It is still very much all of that for me. We need to welcome the new kids into safe spaces and show them that the future world can be bright, but to not take the freedoms we have in this moment for granted. We also need to teach them about our history and everyone from the past that gave up everything so that we can stand tall and proud today. My wish is for a stronger community filled with peaceful power, with allies that walk arm and arm with us and a society – both politically and socially – that keeps evolving and moving forward to fairness and acceptance.”

Chicago Pride Fest - Saturday, June 22 & Sunday, June 23 (

Chicago Pride Parade - Sunday, June 30 at 11 a.m. (" target="_blank">