The first Plainfield Pride Fest on Sunday was a fest and protest.
Organizers proclaimed the event a success with a good turnout for what, in most ways, resembled an average community festival that drew parents with children, staged live music and provided food truck fare and vendor booths for attendees.
Protesters outside objected to a drag storytime for kids and an all-ages drag show that were among the fest features that separated it from the usual community event.
Pride Fest is a celebration of people in the LGTBQ+ community, and it has been appearing on an increasing number of local event calendars.
“It gives people a sense of belonging,” said Jes McIlvain, executive director of Plainfield Pride, which organized the event. “It means people can get together and it allows them to celebrate themselves.”
The fest and the protest were kept separate by staging protesters on the outskirts of the event, security fencing and a heavy police presence. But the two occasionally crossed paths.
“Get the [expletive deleted] out of here!” one fest attendee shouted at a protester who walked along the security fence with a poster reading, “Stop Drag Shows for Kids.”
Otherwise, the fest and protest co-existed through the early hours of the event.
“So far, they’re not doing anything but standing out there,” McIlvain said. “They’re allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights just like we are.”
Later, McIlvain, in remarks to the crowd at Pride Fest, said the protesters even did some good. Pre-event objections, which were an attempt to get the Plainfield Park District to ban the drag-related activities held at a park district facility, led to $6,000 in donations and 50 more volunteers for Pride Fest.
The protesters did not object to Pride Fest, said Danielle Brandon of Plainfield, one of the early demonstrators at the protest that started at about a dozen and grew to as many as 40 by mid-afternoon.
“We are out here because we are opposed to the grooming of our children for the transgender movement that they are doing,” Brandon said. “We don’t care about the Pride event.”
Brandon and others said a Plainfield ordinance bars children from drag shows and argued that the storytime and all-ages drag show violated village law.
The event was at the Plainfield Park District Prairie Activity Recreation Center. That and with the police protection indicated Pride Fest was “above the law,” Brandon said.
“We’re here for the kids,” said protester Amy Adamec of Oswego. “I think this is adult entertainment and I don’t think children should be included in it.”
Adamec said she did not understand why drag performances needed to be part of the event.
“If they took the drag out of it, that would be different,” protester Jennifer Byrd of Plainfield said.
Pride board member Summer Kornfeind, who read three stories dressed in her drag costume as Candi Forest, said drag storytime was not an effort to draw children into her lifestyle.
“There’s no basis for that at all,” Kornfeind said.
Kornfeind said she is among a professional group of drag performers who do storytellings, which provide them with a different setting than adult drag shows.
“You get to be a little more silly,” she said. “You get to be a little more creative.”
But the storytellings are just storytellings, Kornfeind insisted. While she was dressed in an exaggerated female costume, Kornfeind made no comments about sexual identity during her storytelling.
Parent Nicole Tellez of Plainfield, who brought her daughter to the drag storytelling, said she and her family came for the storytime.
“We want her to be around different types of people,” Tellez said of her daughter. “That’s always good for young people.”
The event did face objections, but the Plainfield Park District board decided to let it go forward.
Festgoer Becca Gibson of Plainfield, who was there with her son, said she was glad they did.
“I like that Plainfield took a stand and wasn’t going to let the opinions of a few dictate the day,” Gibson said.