Pride Fest Chicago 2021 draws out 100K after annual parade canceled for 2nd year due to pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Sunday was the final night of a Chicago street festival celebrating Pride, bringing the longtime tradition to Northalsted this weekend.

It was extended after the Chicago Pride Parade, which that been rescheduled for this weekend, was canceled due to COVID concerns.

"We just love the neighborhood [and] supporting pride. Good music, good opportunity to get with friends," said Kerrie Curran.

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However, a little dancing in the rain never hurt anybody and it certainly didn't stop anyone in Northalsted from having a good time.

Despite the rain, the live music continued, bringing in roughly 100,000 people to the neighborhood event.

While this was the second consecutive year the parade has been canceled because of the pandemic, people were still excited to get out and see each other for the celebration again.

"It's not about celebrating our pride in June, it's about celebrating our pride all year round. People should be able to live their lives as who they are," said Mark Liberson, chairman of the Chicago Pride Fest.

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Those who attended were asked to be fully vaccinated or wear a mask. There was also free COVID testing on site.

"We have masks, if necessary, but I'm pretty comfortable out here," said attendee Bao Pham. "I feel like it's not really in the air. There's not much tension."

"Obviously it feels great. Colorful day, even though we had some rain, but feels good to be back in a safe atmosphere, vaccinated and back to normal in a certain way, I guess," added Tyler Fulmer.

"The issue with Covid has made life more challenging but our community is so heavily vaccinated," Liberson said. "I was on stage earlier and I said, 'Who's vaccinated?' The crowd erupted."

Pride Fest is also a welcoming sight for some small businesses.

"This is what we do for a living every week, weekend in and weekend out. The pandemic killed us,' said Anthony Pizzo, owner of Genoas Italian Concession.

Pizzo said roughly 50% of his scheduled events have been postponed or canceled this year. When the events do happen, his team is heavily understaffed.

"We've been in business 33 years and I think I've worked the hardest I've been this year," he said. "And you have to go out there, you don't have a choice. Nobody seems to wanna work."

Keep in mind, some businesses on the block are also requiring proof of vaccination or a recent COVID test.

As Pride Fest weekend came to a close, the North Side neighborhood is now looking forward to its next celebration -- the Halloween parade.

The Halloween parade will likely have similar protocols, urging people to get vaccinated if they're coming, and free COVID testing will be available again on site.

Everyday we're having more and more people vaccinated, more and more people protecting themselves," Liberson said. "We have found, over here and actually through market days, even that by being outdoors, together we're a safe community."
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