Chicago

The Ultimate Guide to LGBTQ+ Pride Month in Chicago

Here's how to celebrate and party this Pride Month in Chicago.

Photo by Liz Devine
Photo by Liz Devine
Photo by Liz Devine

June is upon us, and in Chicago, that means three things: construction season is once again in full swing, it’s finally warm enough to transition from sweatpants to basketball shorts, and the queers are taking to the streets in honor of this year’s LGBTQ+ Pride Month festivities. And thanks to a drop in COVID infections and a general easing of citywide restrictions, most events are back and better than ever, ready to welcome revelers from all walks of life to a bounty of parades, street fairs, music fests, sports games, dance parties, film screenings, drag performances, and so much more. Here’s everything you need to know to get the most bang for your Pride Month buck in Chicago this summer.

Dip your toes into Shedd Aquarium’s Pride Night

Wednesday, June 1
Shedd Aquarium
Because a queer party at an aquarium is an obvious recipe for fun. Dive into the thick of it at this bash held in partnership with A Queer Pride, where multiple DJs set the tone for a nautical drag show, networking opportunities, and more.
Cost: Admission starts at ‚Äč‚Äč$14.95 per person

Netflix and chill at the Pride Film Festival

Wednesday, June 1 – Wednesday, June 15
Montrose Harbor
See what creative LGBTQIA+ filmmakers are up to at this two-week-long short film festival. Look Me Over: Liberace, a documentary focused on the flamboyant piano player, drops on June 1, followed by The Schoolmaster Games, a Swedish feature set an all-boys highschool where being gay is standard operating procedure, screening from June 8 to June 15.
Cost: Festival passes run $25 per person

Gigi Madid
Gigi Madid
Gigi Madid

Pair dumplings with divas at Furama Restaurant’s Dim Sum & Drag Brunch

Saturday, June 4
Furama Restaurant
Chinatown favourite Furama is pulling out all the stops this month, hosting a spectacular dim sum brunch featuring some of Chicago’s most talented drag queens of Asian descent. Expect two all-ages seatings (11:30 am and 2:30 pm), all the delicious eats complete with vegetarian versions and an optional drink pairing, and captivating entertainment courtesy of Club Chow, Rani Ko-he-nur (star of Queen Of The Universe), Aunty Chan, Gigi Madid, K’hole Kardashian, and Mac K. Roni.
Cost: Reservations start at $35 per person

Celebrate the season at Andersonville Midsommarfest

Friday, June 10 – Sunday, June 12
Foster Avenue to Catalpa Avenue
Beloved queer hub Andersonville will transform into a little slice of Sweden on the weekend of June 10 for the 56th annual Midsommarfest (no, not the scary kind). Immerse yourself in Scandinavian culture by way of food and drink vendors, craft showcases, drag shows, cabaret performances, and live DJ sets on the Balmoral Pride Stage, and so much more.
Cost: No cover; additional prices vary

eyeeaters
eyeeaters
eyeeaters

Dress to impress at Eye Eaters Society’s CATEGORY IS: PROM

Saturday, June 18
DANK Haus German American Cultural Center
Dust off that boutineer and break out the ball gown for this glitzy fourth-annual Pride event from Eye Eaters Society. The 21 and up LGBTQ+ prom benefits JASMYN, a Florida-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting queer young folks. Two complimentary cocktails by bar newcomer Bunker, a cash bar fueled by Jim Beam and Perrier, pizza from Lou Malnati’s, treats from Pretty Cool Ice Cream, corsages and boutonnieres by Exfolia Botanical sweeten the deal, while drag shows, soft cowboy music by Andrew Sa, and a performance by the Salvajes Reggaeton Dance Team bring the heat.
Cost: Tickets start at $60 per person

Dominique Robinson/Shutterstock
Dominique Robinson/Shutterstock
Dominique Robinson/Shutterstock

Take to the streets for Chicago Pride Fest

Saturday, June 18 – Sunday, June 19
North Halsted from Addison to Grace Street
The annual street fair is back in action after its pandemic-fueled hiatus, hitting North Halsted for two days of live performances, 150 diverse vendors, arts and crafts expos, and a Sunday Pet Pride Parade. If that wasn’t enough, RuPaul’s Drag Race star Alaska Thunderf*ck, popstar Dorian Electra, and local rapper CupcakKe top the star-studded artist roster.
Cost: Admission runs $15 suggested donation per person

Boogie down for a cause at the Chicago History Museum’s Dancing for Life Benefit

Thursday, June 23
Chicago History Museum
In a one-two punch honouring Pride Month and the Year of Chicago Dance, the Chicago History Museum is throwing this dance-centric symposium for folks of all ages and backgrounds. A special dance performance kicks things off, followed by a panel discussion and reception commenting on the history of HIV/AIDS here in Chicago, the dance community’s relationship with the ongoing epidemic, and the future of HIV/AIDS advocacy.
Cost: Tickets start at $15 per adult ($5 for youth and seniors)

Get wild at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Adults Night OUT: Pride Party

Thursday, June 23
Lincoln Park Zoo
What’s even more fun than a queer party at an aquarium? A queer party at the zoo, of course. Party with the primates at this after-hours LGBTQ+ shindig expressly for grown-ups. Grab a cocktail and roam the grounds while a live DJ, Drag Queen Bingo, interactive animal experiences, and more serve as the evening’s entertainment.
Cost: Tickets start at $15 per person

Proud To Run Chicago
Proud To Run Chicago
Proud To Run Chicago

Sweat it all out at Proud to Run 2022

Saturday, June 25
Montrose Harbor
Partied a little too hard this month? Feel those toxins slip away along this lakefront 5K, 10K, or half marathon benefiting the local LGBTQ+ community.
Cost: Registration runs $50 per person

Navy Pier
Navy Pier
Navy Pier

Party with the fam at Navy Pier Pride

Saturday, June 25
Navy Pier
A decidedly family-friendly Pride fest is touching down at scenic Navy Pier on June 25, rolling deep with a full lineup of inclusive, fun-loving events. Gear up for Storytime with Drag Queens, live shows and screenings, and Queer at the Pier, a fashion and music bash led by special guest CeCe Penistone.
Cost: No cover; additional prices vary

Paint Rogers Park pink at Pride North Chicago

Saturday, June 25 – Sunday, June 26
Glenwood Avenue between Morse and Lunt
The northside is all glitter and rainbows on June 25, when DJs and other fabulous entertainers spread across two stages keep the crowd pumping all weekend long. Food and drink vendors and more family-friendly festivities round things out.
Cost: No cover; additional prices vary

Pride in the Park Chicago
Pride in the Park Chicago
Pride in the Park Chicago

Rock out at Pride in the Park

Saturday, June 25 – Sunday, June 26
Grant Park
A power-packed lineup of artists are taking over Grant Park in the name of pride on June 25 for two full days of fun-in-the-sun performances. Highlights include the Chainsmokers, Alesso, Joel Corry, Shea Coulee, Daya, Saucy Santata, and Rebecca Black of “Friday” fame, among others.
Cost: Single-day passes start at $50 per person

Back Lot Bash
Back Lot Bash
Back Lot Bash

Give it up for grrrl power at Back Lot Bash

Saturday, June 25 – Sunday, June 26
5238 North Clark Street
Relive your Lilith Fair glory days at this al fresco Andersonville indie music fest highlighting fiercely out and proud women and nonbinary artists. G Flip, DJ Mary Mac, Cristy Lawrence, Nicolina, Too Much Molly, UltraBeat, Beyond The Blonde, and more will be crooning to the 21 and up crowd, alongside after parties and the accompanying Pride Family Fest.
Cost: Single-day passes run $20 per person

Take things to a new level at Chicago Urban Pride: Rooftop Pride in the Sky

Sunday, June 26
The Promontory
Elevate your Pride Month agenda at this annual South Side soirée hosted by Hyde Park staple, the Promontory. The open-air gig promises sets by DJ Superman and emcee Trina Tru Luv plus good vibes and even better views.
Cost: Tickets start at $20 per person

Strut your stuff at the 51st annual Chicago Pride Parade

Sunday, June 26
Uptown
It’s back, y’all. The Pride Parade will be stepping out onto Montrose Avenue in Uptown at noon on Sunday, June 26, snaking its way all the way down to the corner of Diversey Parkway and Sheridan Road in Lincoln Park. Post up along the route and join in on the madness as colourful floats and teams of marchers representing all corners of the city show their support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Cost: No cover; additional prices vary

Knock it out of the park at Chicago Cubs Pride Night

Wednesday, June 29
Wrigley Field
While the Red Stars and the Sky held their official Pride Nights earlier in the month, the Cubbies are extending the fun with this end-of-month showdown at the Friendly Confines. Your ticket gets you entry to the game as well as a Cubs branded LGBTQ+ Pride cap, while $5 from each sale goes toward Center on Halsted and TPAN.
Cost: Tickets start at $42 per person

Pride South Side
Pride South Side
Pride South Side

Close things out in style with Chicago Black Pride 2022

Friday, July 1 – Sunday, July 3
Multiple locations
Bid Pride Month adieu at this annual South Side three-day spectacle honouring Chicago’s amazing Black LGBTQ+ community. A host of events mark the occasion, including a leadership conference, parades, a white party, outdoor concerts, a mini ball, and so much more.
Cost: Admission prices vary

Chicago

Robyn DaCultyre Is Doing It for the Culture

"The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone."

Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi

I was introduced to Robyn DaCultyre at an Untitled Queen show at C’mon Everybody in late January, and it was one of the most unique drag shows I’d seen in a while. Afterwards, I tracked down this self-described “drag creature” and video chatted about her drag origin story, the state of drag in her native Ohio, and the dual identities that make up her persona. Thrillist: I want to ask you about how Robyn DaCultyre came about and your point of view behind your performance.

Robyn DaCultyre: I’ve been travelling around the country from a young age in ministry and Christian studies. I moved to Chicago right after high school. Four years later, moved back to Columbus and decided I didn’t really want to do church anymore; that wasn’t where my heart was.

I had a really low point in my life and had a suicide attempt and then really found drag and started doing drag as a coping mechanism and way to let off steam. I started in July of 2019, and it was really a lot of punk and metal music. I created this drag creature of sorts and they were really out of this world and celestial and all of those fun alien type terms.

And then we went into a global pandemic and I had a lot of time to figure out who I wanted to be. Digitally I was still doing a lot of drag creature-esque numbers and all of that, but I had this moment where we’re on the front lines getting hit with pepper spray and rubber bullets and pepper spray-all of those lovely things. And I said, I have this platform and I need to start showcasing what’s happening.

Untitled [Queen] stepped in at the right time and messaged me and said, “I’m doing this show for Independence Day called Untitled in America with 52 different performers and I want you to be a part of it.” It was at that moment I was able to take the footage I had been recording on the front lines and incorporate it into digital content. I did a song called Black Like Me by Mickey Guyton that talks about white picket fences, but if you want to see how America is, then you should try being Black like me. The imagery of what’s literally happening in Columbus in that digital performance really spearheaded me into focusing on people who look like me.

Nina Simone is one of my biggest inspirations, and one of her quotes that resonates with me is that it’s the duty of the artist to resonate with the times. My art is politically charged. I like to entertain, but there will definitely be a time when you come to a show expecting to have your drink and be chill and that might not be the case.

How did the name Robyn DaCultyre come about?

I was smoking with Ursula Major, who was on season one of Dragula, and the first time I introduced myself to her I was Robyn Banks, which is my drag name originally. She said, “Well, do you just not want to be original at all?” [Laughs] And I sat with that for a couple of months, and I got really stoned one day and was listening to Janelle Monae, and she talks about doing it for the culture, and I said “I do it for the culture, too!” And the rest is history.

And you started a series called Melanated.

We started Melanated last February. I told the idea to my show director that there were no shows specifically run by Black people that only featured Black entertainers. I wanted to do this show for a night and she said, Why don’t we do it once a week for the whole month? The first show happens, and it’s a sold out crowd, and [my director] comes back and says we should do this every month. So I sucked it up and here we are a year later.

Melanated is the only fully Black show in all of the state. It’s a horrible marketing tool and not something I want to promote, but it is just a fact. It amazes me that we are the 13th largest city in America and there’s nothing here that’s fully focused on Black entertainers. The name also comes from Janelle Monae; she says she’s highly melanated and I said, that works.

Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)

You refer to yourself as a drag creature, as opposed to drag queen or king…

This is actually the first time I’m making this public. I am in this place where I want to separate the alternative creature from who this melanated goddess or whatever is. DaCultyre is definitely the person who runs Melanated and then Robyn is this drag creature that is out of this world and really loves punk and alternative music. And both intertwine to make Robyn DaCultyre.

You also do pageants. Tell me about that.

In 2020 I was appointed by Nina West, who is from Columbus, as the representative from Ohio for National Entertainer of the Year in Louisville, Kentucky. I placed ninth out of 13 contestants and I really fell in love with the system and fell in love with the pageantry and loved the idea of reigning and being different. I want to show that we as alternative performers, as bearded performers, you can come into these systems and shake things up.

Is there a uniquely “Ohio” style of drag?

No, and I think that’s one of the things that makes it so amazing is that everyone has their own unique style, and it’s all pretty much accepted. I started as a performer and a drag creature and there was space that was afforded to me and I transitioned to more glamor and pageantry and that’s afforded to me as well. I’ve been a bearded entertainer for a year now. The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone.

I think I have everything I need. Is there anything else I didn’t ask you about that you want to bring up, or‚Ķ

I don’t think so. Are there any generic questions you haven’t asked?

Generic questions‚ĶI think I asked all of them already [laughs]. I like to ask what you’d be doing if you weren’t doing drag?

It’s a great question. I have a day job that is very demanding so I need drag to get away. I’m also very creative and artistic. I used to do web design and all these other things to pull into my creativity. Drag is the longest thing I’ve stuck with in all parts of my life, so I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

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John deBary¬†is a drinks expert and writer. His first cocktail book,¬†Drink What You Want, is available now, and his next book,¬†Saved by the Bellini, is expected in early 2023. He is also the co-founder and president of the¬†Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of hospitality industry professionals through advocacy, grant making, and impact investing.

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