Writing by: Fiza Javid
Photography by: Bobby Talamine
With every storm, we are sure to see a rainbow. On Saturday afternoon, day one at the 2021 Pride in the Park Festival, Grant Park was flooded with a sea of colorful rainbow umbrellas, costumes and a crowd ready to kick off their first post-pandemic festival. Enthusiastic crowds in speedos, and corsets were ready to dance through the rain and get down in the mud.
“Rain or shine, this was going to happen, not just because of the challenging year we’ve had, but because we are some proud motherf**kers!” Exclaimed Naysha Lopez, during her performance at the GoPuff Pride Stage, which was the main stage for the day.
After a two-hour delay, the festival kicked off with a Ballroom set on the GoPuff Pride stage. For those that don’t know, the Underground Ballroom Culture officially developed in the 1920s-1960s as a counterculture. It originated in New York City and consisted of “walks” or competitions with mixed performances such as modeling, dancing, and lip syncing. The Pride Parade itself also developed as a protest to advocate for same-sex marriage.
There was also a secondary stage entitled Circuitmom Grooveland, which featured DJ sets from Hector Fonseca, CircuitMOM, Denali Foxx, Chamilla Foxx, and gogo dancers.
Chicago’s Pride in the Park commemorated all of the aspects of both the parade and Ballroom Culture, which were further exemplified with the main stage performances.
Renowned Chicago DJ Derrick Carter kept the crowd moving smoothly throughout the day.
The main performance went off with a bang with Miss Toto, who stunned the crowd with Beyonce impersonation with the choreography and fashion en pointe. She stunned the crowd as she joined the stage twice with a Madonna themed bustier and a glamorous belly dance skirt, gliding through the stage to “Supermodel” by RuPaul. She brought it back to 2009 dancing to “Took the Night” by Chelley and more.
Naysha Lopez brought the theatre with group choreography as she lip sang “Boys” by JBTV alumni Charli XCX, and other classics like “Milkshake,” “Jump On It” and Britney Spears’ “Boys.”
The #Free Britney campaign was also a prevailing statement with a number of guests, as well as Tiesto, honoring the singer by wearing Britney Spears shirts.
Alyssa Edwards stunned the crowd with an incredible cover of “Proud” by Heather Small.
Betty Who performed original songs alongside dancers Joshua and Shawn, and uplifted the spirits of the audience, reminding everyone how much has been overcome.
"It is genuinely the best day of my life thank you very much, it's been a long pandemic, it's taken its toll on me, but here we are! I want you to have the night of your lives, who cares if it rains on us!”
Mascots Benny the Bull and Tommy Hawk excited the whole front row as they threw Tiesto hats and t-shirts into the audience. By the end of the night, pride shone through the crowd, who couldn’t have been more electrified for Tiesto, which ended the night like a firecracker.
Pride in the Park is on the track to becoming one of the most popular festivals in the country, and Chicago is ready for it. No matter that mother nature wanted to rain on this parade, Pride in the Park was not just a smooth sail, it was a success. Filled with love, commemorations, glitter, and stunts, day one was truly one for the books.
Stay tuned for day two, with coverage on the performances of Chaka Khan and Gryffin!