Lisa Ashford of Joliet, who was proudly sporting a 2021 PrideFest T-shirt, said Saturday’s event was much bigger than last year’s.
Both she and Ruth Salinas had tried their luck at Bingo, although neither won. But that was OK.
“We’re here to celebrate Pride,” Ashford said.
Joliet PrideFest has been at Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park and Theatre in Joliet since it first started three years ago.
The Joliet Pride Network hosted the event. Funds raised help support the group’s LGBTQ+ activities.
The family friendly event included an all-age drag show along with a touch-a-truck, a zoo with nonnative animals and a magician. The Joliet Central Art Club led arts and crafts at the teen corner.
Other teen-oriented scheduled activities included gaming and ax throwing.
A “PrideFest After Dark – Leather and Lace,” event was restricted to those ages 18 and up and included a $20 admission charge. Otherwise, admission was free.
Michael Smith, vice president of the Joliet Pride Network, was pleased at the turnout and the mild weather. He said about 26 nonprofits participated, including Pride groups from Bolingbrook and Naperville.
Smith said the Joliet Central students had reached out to the Joliet Pride Network offering to do henna body applications and face painting. Smith called the students “an amazing group of kids.”
“So many have freely given of themselves,” Smith said. “It’s really heartwarming.”
Kyle McCloskey of Dwight entertained as his character, Ky Chameleon. McCloskey said he’s done special effects Halloween makeup as well as performance drag for years. He recently expanded into the clown role after meeting Morris’ Debra Jackson, also known as Catfish the Clown.
McCloskey said he was also very proud of his clown nose, which was a gift from Jackson.
Jackson, who twisted a balloon for a child as she talked, said her clown name came from the time she caught a 37-inch catfish at the Grundy County Rod and Gun Club in Morris.
“I just love the fun of getting out to local events,” Jackson said. “It’s in my heart.”
Jeff Gregory, president of the Joliet Pride Network, was glad for the generous support from the community, the sponsors and elected officials.
Gregory said any talk about rights, such as women’s rights or gay rights, is really talk about one thing.
“It’s about human rights,” Gregory said.
Elizabeth Check of Joliet celebrated her coming out as pansexual at PrideFest, she said.
“I love men and women,” Check said, “regardless of gender.”