Five weeks and thousands of online messages after it was first announced, UpRising Bakery and Cafe was finally able to host a drag brunch Sunday morning.
The show, which was marketed as open to all ages, initially drew a litany of angry comments and in-person harassment in protest, culminating in vandalism. Police arrested a man from Alsip on hate crime charges in connection with the smashing of windows and writing of epithets on the wall inside the bakery two nights before the brunch was first scheduled.
The brunch, which was rescheduled for Sunday, blew up into a national news story and has grown into a broader flashpoint over LGBTQ rights and freedom of expression, attendees said.
Sunday’s show attracted several dozen attendees – only a handful of whom, in the end, were kids – and the atmosphere around the cafe Sunday morning was subdued compared to the the previous weeks.
There were neither protesters nor counter-protesters in the parking lot, which was patrolled by Lake in the Hills police, as well as several volunteers helping out at the cafe Sunday morning.
“I just don’t like what’s been happening,” said Bernie Hildebrandt of Palatine. “I am here to support the cafe, and I think it’s great this is happening.”
At least one customer, James Kimball, said he was there for the brunch itself and praised the cafe’s offerings and their vegan poppers in particular.
“Corinna [Bendel Sac], the owner, is incredible,” Kimball said. “I’ve been supporting them for a long time.”
Only ticketed guests were allowed into the bakery, and media was not allowed to view the performance, which featured Jakki Love, Horchata and Boo Boo Kitty.
Bendel Sac said that while she was “super excited” and “really grateful” to the cafe’s supporters, she wanted Sunday’s event to go on without fanfare.
“We are asking for privacy so we can have an incident free event and can continue to hold these going forward,” Bendel Sac said.
In the week leading up to the rescheduled drag show, the village of Lake in the Hills briefly indicated they would not allow the cafe to host events, before backing down Thursday.
The following day, Illinois Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker visited the the cafe on Friday and offered his support for the show and the LGBTQ community.
An attorney representing the cafe who was volunteering Sunday, George Kililis, said the brunch taking place was “a great outcome” for the cafe and the community.
The only hint of potential controversy was a woman capturing phone videos from inside a parked car of the crowd entering the cafe, briefly walking up to film media and volunteers standing outside. The woman declined to comment on why she was were there.