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Celebrating the 8th annual CU Pride Fest

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Parade attendees dress up and carry handmade signs in the CU Pride Parade last year. Parade Chair Josh Laskowski said last year's parade was the best one yet, but has high hopes for the future.

Parade attendees dress up and carry handmade signs in the CU Pride Parade last year. Parade Chair Josh Laskowski said last year's parade was the best one yet, but has high hopes for the future.

Brian Bauer

Brian Bauer

Parade attendees dress up and carry handmade signs in the CU Pride Parade last year. Parade Chair Josh Laskowski said last year's parade was the best one yet, but has high hopes for the future.

By Wren Wheeling, Staff Writer

The 8th annual CU Pride Fest, hosted by the Uniting Pride Center, or UP Center, is set for September 15 to 17.

According to Josh Laskowski, who has been the CU Pride and Parade Chair for three years, 2016 was the best Pride yet.

“We had more community support than ever before, more sponsors, more vendors and parade entries,” Laskowski said.

For 2017’s Pride Fest, events will kick off with a comedy fundraiser at Soma Ultralounge on Friday night. Other activities in Downtown Champaign taking place on Sept. 15 will be announced within the next two weeks, according to Laskowski in a press release. 

Running from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday is a family friendly area, hosted by Chambanamoms.com. The free area – located in the city parking lot at Hill and Neil streets – includes vendors, play areas and carnival games.

Saturday’s highlight, the CU Pride Parade, begins at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16, starting on Main and Walnut streets. 

This year’s parade Grand Marshall is the Director of the Illinois Office of Tourism Cory Jobe.

Following the parade will be festivities at local bars, but both the location of Pride HQ and the schedule of performances has not been announced yet. 

On Sept. 17, Pride Fest will be concluded after Drag Brunch at CityView located above Illinois Terminal with Dish Passionate Cuisine. The Drag Brunch combines breakfast, bottomless mimosas and a show full of various performances from local and national queens. 

Tickets for Drag Brunch are $30 and available online.

The UP center is an organization that is dedicated to protecting the well-being and development of the LGBT+ community, especially LGBT+ youth. They are located in the “Rainbow Room,” which is on the Lower Level of the University YMCA, 1001 S. Wright St., where they hold many social groups for the LGBT+ community and their families.  

“The UP Center of Champaign County is the only LGBTQ+ resource center in the greater east central Illinois region,” Laskowski said. “We serve clients from Champaign County and the surrounding areas through support groups, guest speakers, community events, referrals and resources.”

While this is Laskowski’s last year working as the CU Pride and Parade Chair, he looks forward to seeing the event continue to grow and expand. In the future, he will continue to donate and volunteer for the event, but for now he will give this year’s planning everything that he can.

“This year, CU Pride will be bigger and better than ever,” he said. “I hope this community continues to embrace the LGBTQ community and this event.”

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