Our Kinda Town, Chicago Is..
Our kinda town, Chicago is our kinda town. And if you don't know it yet, all you have to do is drop in this summer. Pride is busting out all over.
Pride is something people take seriously here. Very seriously - even while laughing a lot.
Four hundred fifty thousand people or so will likely prove me right for the 39th annual Pride Parade, which is set for Boystown on Sunday, June 29.
But the parade is just the tip of the ice-cream cone. Pride month is a rich spumoni of possibilities. Here's how Rich Pfeiffer, PRIDEChicago coordinator describes it:
"We have close to 100 different events scheduled each year during the month of June. Pride month is filled with dances, parties, picnics, choral concerts, a street fest and, of course, the Annual Pride Parade. Many visitors have such a great time, that they return to Chicago year after year for Pride month."
Between now and the parade there is a very full dance card of events: From Rosie O'Donnell to the Fairy Gardeners, from original performances by the NewTown Writers to the Windy City Gay Idol Finals, from Roller Derby to the Windy City Gay Men's Chorus, from gay day at Six Flags Great America to a croquet tournament, from a Boystown food sampler event to outdoor movie night ("Hairspray") at Hollywood Beach.
And then there is the extravaganza that is the parade - more floats than you can count, more GLBTQ flaunters than Pastor John Hagee has in his nightmares and more fun than, well, a barrel of Midwestern monkeys.
There is so much pride here it spills over all the way from Milwaukee to Gary and even west out there on the freeway past Ikea.
Bill Greaves, the city's cultural liason to the GLBT community is succinct and apt about visiting Chicago this June: "There is something to do almost everyday. And if there isn't, you can go to the Art Institute. The city is just hopping with events."
And it is true, there is something for everyone - all wrapped around the rest of Chicago's well-polished charms: theater, food, the best warm weather of the year, the gigantic air conditioner we call Lake Michigan and hundreds of gay/lesbian-owned small businesses.
The Pride Parade runs through our official City of Chicago-designated LGBT neighborhood, Lakeview, which everyone calls Boystown. You can tell when you've arrived there by the 22 rainbow-ringed and illuminated 20-foot pylons on Halsted Street, from Belmont to Waveland Avenues.
I am tempted to say that Boystown is like the Castro on testosterone. But that would be overly Chicago-centric of me. Gosh.
What you will find there is a big, overtly LGBTQ universe, edgy, eclectic and full of energy. It's got everything you need to have a fab getaway: good restaurants, sharp shops, energizing clubs, a great bookstore (Unabridged Books), leather, and good coffee to wash it all down.
And Boystown isn't the end of the story. Up Clark Street a piece is Andersonville. Once Swedish, the neighborhood is now a restaurant-dominated hive of LGBTQ culture, fun, art and another great book store (Women and Children First). It also has one of the most comfortable lesbian-centric wine bars in the country (Joie de Vine). And my own personal favorite scones in the universe. (A Taste of Heaven).
Outside the two main 'hoods, there is a remarkable and noteworthy GLBTQ presence in large parts of Chicago. This city has, with some exceptions, accepted, even often embraced, gayness as one more immigrant wave.
Another of Chicago's surprisingly endearing qualities is how friendly the locals are. If civility isn't exactly universal, it certainly is widespread. As long as you don't expect cars to stop for you in the crosswalks, you'll find people helpful. You may even find yourself wanting to chat people up - the person sitting next to you at the About Face Theater, the waiter at Charlie's Alehouse, that woman perusing the shelves at Gerber/Hart Library, the desk person at Center on Halsted and, of course, the bartenders at Hydrate.
This year the grand marshal of the 39th annual Pride Parade is the activist ex-Marine Eric Alva, the first American wounded in this Iraq war. Eric showed his pride when he came out in 2007, and with Congressman Martin Meehan he has worked toward repealing the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. You should come and salute him with us.
Chicago is easy to get to from almost anywhere in the US and Canada. That's why we have two airports, O'Hare and Midway.
Where to stay? Easy: While LGBTQ travelers are welcome at any hotel in the city, certain hotels near Boystown are known for being particularly LGBTQ-friendly. The Neighborhood Inns of Chicago have three comfortable, stylish hotels located in Lakeview (http://www.cityinns.com/).
Like small hotels? Look into these three B&Bs located minutes from Boystown and Andersonville - the Ardmore House (http://www.ardmorehousebb.com/) , the Villa Toscana (http://www.thevillatoscana.com/ ) and House 5863 (http://www.house5863.com/) . The Hawthorne Terrace Best Western (http://www.hawthorneterrace.com) is a charming boutique hotel nestled in the heart of Lakeview.
For a detailed calendar of events: http://www.chicagopridecalendar.org/
If you have questions, you can address them to PRIDEchicago coordinator Rich Pfeiffer at PrideChgo@aol.com or 773-348-8243/
For evn more info on who, what, where, when and why: take at look at http://www.navigaytour.com/website/chicago.html
As the signs at the airports say, "We're glad you're here."