Those looking to celebrate Pride Month will find no shortage of ways to do that in Downers Grove.
Kathryn Deiss, co-chairman of the EQuality Downers Grove community organization coordinating many of those activities, can’t wait.
“I think that when it comes to Pride Month and other events like Juneteenth, these are celebratory holidays in that they actually allow us to celebrate people who have been less celebrated in the past,” Deiss said. “When groups of people come together in celebration, or even in grief like 9/11 or the pandemic, that’s where we’re reminded of how much as a humanity that we share.”
EQDG, which aims to create an accepting and equitable environment for LGBTQ+ people through education, support, social action and advocacy, began celebrating Pride Month in 2021.
Members are excited to ring in Pride 2023 this month with a slate of programs and events.
Like the past two years, local artists and Downers Grove youth volunteered their time to paint windows in the downtown that will remain in place throughout the month.
Deiss said more than 30 businesses offered their windows, while other businesses plan to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community by hanging flags.
“It’s amazing how supportive and how enthusiastically engaged our business community is in the work we’re doing,” she said.
Last year’s Pride events included a community picnic in Fishel Park one weekend and the Pride in the Parking Lot at First United Methodist Church, 1032 Maple Ave., on another weekend. EQDG and FUMC are combining the two this year into one event called Pride in the Park ‘N Lot.
Set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 11, the family-friendly celebration will feature activities on both sides of Grove Street, including OUTspoken LGBTQ+ storytelling at 11:30 a.m. on the Fishel Park stage, a drag gnome scavenger hunt, community organization booths, a clothing exchange, food truck, tie-dying, rock painting, nail and face painting, games, chalk art in the parking lot and more. New to this year’s event is the Pet Pride Costume Contest, where attendees are encouraged to dress their pets for Pride and have their pictures taken together.
Andi Voinovich, associate pastor at Downers Grove First UMC, said Pride events are important “because they build community.”
“LGBTQ+ people and our allies get to gather together and not feel so alone, which is so important, particularly in this time of so many anti-LGBTQ+ bills and attacks on transgender people,” Voinovich said.
As far as who should go to Pride in the Park ‘N Lot, “I hope everyone with an open heart attends,” Voinovich said. “This is a family-friendly event with activities for all age groups. It’s a great opportunity to spend time together, have our stories shared and resource one another.”
Coordinators of this year’s Pride festivities are excited to welcome The Legacy Wall to the Downers Grove Public Library for the month of June. The one-of-a-kind, digitally-interactive, traveling exhibit features “mini-biographies” of LGBTQ+ people throughout history who have contributed in distinct fields.
“It will be impossible to miss and a very contemplative learning experience,” Deiss said.
She lauds the fundraising initiative that made bringing The Legacy Wall to Downers Grove possible.
“This is another area where the community has been enthusiastically supportive. It was not a cheap endeavor, but the contributions we got from so many organizations, churches, synagogues and individuals, that were everywhere from $25 to $1,000 or more … we didn’t expect the enthusiastic response we got,” Deiss said. “We’re very proud that we have support of our community, but also that we have the opportunity to share The Legacy Wall with everybody in Downers Grove and other suburbs.”
Also during Pride Month, The League of Women Voters of Downers Grove, Woodridge, Lisle, in conjunction with Woodridge’s Human Relations Advisory Committee, are partnering to host Finding Our Voices, where seasoned performers from Tellin’ Tales Theatre company will share solo performances based on their own real-life stories as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Set for 7 p.m. Thursday, June 15, at Woodridge Public Library, 3 Plaza Drive, Woodridge, the free community event will include a Q&A session and information on how individuals can develop their own stories. To reserve a spot, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/tellin-tales-theater-finding-our-voices-tickets-624550355927.
Deiss and her fellow coordinators are thrilled to see the support for and engagement with the LGBTQ+ community continue to grow each year.
“It’s very telling to have a community come together like this,” she said. “And it’s so much fun, too.”
These endeavors, she said, help create what she calls “a virtuous cycle.”
“I think the world and the people in it rely on empathy to keep hope going and support one another,” Deiss said. “How do you create community? By working together to make a better world. So it becomes this virtuous cycle where you create community by giving and showing empathy, and that creates, I think, a better environment to thrive.”
For information about events, visit eqdg.org/.
As part of Cantigny’s Summer Nights series, members of the LGBTQ+ community and its supporters are invited to celebrate Pride month at the Pride Picnic from 6 to 9 p.m. June 22 on Cantigny’s McCormick Allee, 1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton.
Food trucks will be on-site or attendees can bring a picnic from home. The Cantigny food and beverage team will offer a specially themed cocktail for the evening called The Easy Rider, made with vodka, Peach Schnapps, Blue Curacao, Grenadine, pineapple and cherry garnish. Beer and wine will be available, too, including Cantigny Kolsch, brewed by 93 Octane Brewery in St. Charles.
The evening will include Baig of Tricks Entertainment facilitating queer film trivia, with prizes from LGBTQ+ businesses to be awarded for first, second and third place. Cantigny also will host other activities at the event. Tickets for the Pride Picnic can be bought at cantigny.org/.