Uniting Pride’s Pride Fest features celebration, call to action


The Daily Illini File Photo

A parade participant holds a sign promoting love over hate at the Uniting Pride C-U Pride Fest on Sept. 25, 2021. This year’s Pride Fest will feature 17 events that will be happening around the community.

By Kylie Corral, Staff Writer

Pride Fest, a widely celebrated event in Champaign-Urbana, wasn’t in existence in C-U until Uniting Pride began planning it. As a significant celebration amongst the LGBTQ+ community, it is widely looked forward to since students have fully returned to campus. 

Valena Hedin, a member of the Board of Directors for Uniting Pride, said this year, the Pride Fest will be in Urbana, taking up the downtown areas before heading to Campustown. They added that Uniting Pride is very excited to celebrate again.

“We at Uniting Pride strive to make any of the programs that we run, but especially Pride (Fest), a safe, affirming and celebratory event,” Hedin said. “So we’re going to, you know, just be focusing on queer pride and queer joy this year.”

Because of the large amount of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, growing judgment and misunderstanding against the community, Hedin said there will be bystander intervention at Pride Fest to keep everyone safe.

“So we’re hopeful that this year again that the people who are ignorant or judgmental, aggressive, are gonna stay home and let us celebrate and just be able to have a joyous, fun time,” Hedin said.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Hedin said their favorite part of Pride Fest is seeing how people come dressed up to attend the event, saying many attendees drape the pride flag around their shoulders as a cape celebration.

“Because we’re starting the day out with the parade, we really want to encourage people to watch the parade, to participate in the parade,” they said. “We’re actually going to have parade judging this year. It’s not going to be anything super serious or, like, you have to make the most professional-looking float, we just want to see people have fun.” 

Hedin added that there is still plenty of room for vendors, parade floats and people interested in marching in the parade to sign up. Vendors will also be open to talk about their businesses after the Pride Fest.

“I would say that it is just a loud, colorful, loving celebration of the queer community here in Champaign-Urbana,” they said. “We really strive to highlight the businesses and the agencies that are the people right here in our own community, who are doing the work to make this a safe place. So if you come, we’re going to celebrate you. Because if you’re prideful, then you’re a part of our community.” 

Nicole Frydman, the Director of Operations for Uniting Pride of Champaign County, said she believes the Pride Fest has something for everyone.

The Pride Fest will be a series of about 17 different events across nine different days, lasting from Sept. 24 to Oct. 2. Even though Pride Fest starts with a parade, it doesn’t stop there.

“By designing a large set of different kinds of programs, we’re able to find ways in which different people can connect and celebrate and get community in that way,” Frydman said. “So it’s really important to us in relation to that.”

Frydman said she wants people to remember the core of pride as celebrations move forward.

“Pride was an uprising,” Frydman said. “It was a reaction to queer people not being able to simply exist in public as openly queer. It was an uprising against laws and legal issues but also against cultural norms, and we have made a lot of progress since then. So part of pride has become a celebration and we love that, and we want that, but we also want to remind folks that there’s advocacy work to be done.”

She added that it is even more significant that pride is a celebration now more than ever.

Frydman said that there will be fun education and other events across those nine days for people to attend, such as queer homecoming, drag brunch, a community crawl similar to a bar crawl and much more. She added that tickets sell out fast, and Uniting Pride wants to make sure everyone is able to get tickets to the events that they want to attend.

“LGBTQ+ people have had a long history of marginalization and people trying to make them invisible and trying to eradicate, even, us out of existence,” she said. “Pride is about being out and proud on the streets of the community in which we live. It’s a celebration of all the progress we have made, and it’s a call to action around continued advocacy, fighting anti LGBTQ+ sentiment, fighting bigotry and hatred and spreading love as far as we can.”


[email protected]