CU celebrates LGBTQ community with Pride Fest, parade

A+drag+queen+poses+for+a+photo+with+a+parade+goer+during+pride+festivities+on+Saturday+in+Urbana.+Committee+members+at+Uniting+Pride+of+Champaign+County+have+been+hard+at+work+setting+up+this+years+Pride+parade.

Sydney Laput

A drag queen poses for a photo with a parade goer during pride festivities on Saturday in Urbana. Committee members at Uniting Pride of Champaign County have been hard at work setting up this year’s Pride parade.

By Carolina Garibay, buzz Editor

For the past couple of months, committee members at Uniting Pride of Champaign County have been hard at work planning Pride Fest, one of C-U’s most beloved celebrations. This year’s festivities started Monday and continue throughout the week with the highly anticipated Pride Parade taking place Saturday.

Nicole Frydman, director of operations at Uniting Pride, said Pride Fest allows the community to gather and proudly celebrate who they are.

“C-U Pride Fest is all about celebrating the traditional heart of pride, which is to be out and proud in public in our communities,” Frydman said.

She cited the 1969 Stonewall Riots, which inspired the first pride march in 1970, reflecting on the importance of LGBTQ spaces and celebrations. Frydman said the energy and passion of this first pride march is woven into current pride festivals today, even though the LGBTQ community and climate has changed since the ‘70s.

“While so much of how exactly pride is celebrated from year to year might change, which it should, because it’s a living thing that reacts to the realities and the issues of the day … the heart of pride is exactly the same as it was then,” Frydman said.

One of the ways C-U is making Pride Fest its own is by centering events around a specific theme, which is “What the Health? Fighting, Surviving, Thriving.” Frydman said this theme was both a way to honor the 40th anniversary of the HIV/AIDS crisis and to incorporate the current and lasting effects COVID-19 is having on people, specifically the LGBTQ community.

“The queer community has had a lot of experience with illnesses that are transmissible through physical contact, and we have watched as so many people died young or got lifelong illnesses and issues,” Frydman said. “We also watched as certain groups did nothing about it and didn’t care. You know, this is eerily familiar for our community. It feels nearly impossible to not draw the connections.”

Though many places are reopening and loosening COVID-19 restrictions, Frydman said that the pandemic is still very real. All Pride Fest events, including the Pride Parade, are requiring that attendees wear masks, both indoors and outdoors, and anyone attending in-person events must show proof of full vaccination.

“We’re very much still in the heart of COVID, and we know that, but we’re feeling incredibly lucky that science has advanced such that we can at least do these events in these ways,” Frydman said. “I know I’m very hungry for it myself, and I can only imagine that that’s very true for a lot of people.”

Pride Fest has no shortage of events, with every day this week filled with entertaining, educational and interactive events. Monday, for example, the Spurlock Museum hosted a conversation about “To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults,” and Thursday, Uniting Pride and The Trauma and Resilience Initiative are teaming up for a discussion about the effects of the HIV and COVID-19 pandemics on under-supported communities.

Like these two events, many of Uniting Pride’s events this week feature some type of collaboration with another organization that supports Uniting Pride and its mission, which Frydman said brought about another unintentional theme.

“The sort of undercurrent theme that accidentally happened is all about community partnership,” she said. “This is a nearly all-volunteer effort, and nearly all partnership effort and that’s why we are where we are.”

Several of these organizations are going to be at the Vendor Fair Saturday from noon–6 p.m., which is followed by the Pride Parade at 3 p.m. in Downtown Urbana. Julie Pryde, C-U public health leader, will be leading the parade, which will feature local businesses, community groups and entertainers.

Frydman said she feels lucky to be in a community where there’s such rich arts and culture and that being at the parade in C-U this weekend will provide a unique, magical experience for the community.

“Our particular brand of special sauce is about the deep sense of joy felt when you are living your true self out and proud,” Frydman said. “It’s not something I think you really feel at any of those other events in exactly the same way. There’s no other place that you can get that feeling.”

Pride Fest happening now, and the Pride Parade takes place Saturday at 3 p.m. in Downtown Urbana. For a full list of the Pride Fest events, visit https://www.unitingpride.org/schedule, and for more information on the Pride Parade, visit https://www.unitingpride.org/parade-21.

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