Small town photographer Jeff Konkel, 20, lives in Woodridge, almost 30 miles west from downtown Chicago. In his village of 33,000, the gay community is not visible.
So Konkel arrives a week in advance each year to attend the gay pride parade in Chicago.
Like many visitors coming for the 45th annual Pride Parade this Sunday in the city, Konkel will be in search for a temporary living space.
“I’m really excited for this year’s parade,” Konkel said. “I’ve enjoyed staying at a few of my friends houses in the past. This year, I’ll be looking for a hotel in the South Loop.”
According to a 2013 survey conducted by Community Marketing Inc., based in San Francisco, Chicago is the second most popular city, at 18 percent, among gay and bisexual men visiting for leisure purposes. The city is No. 3 at 13 to 14 percent for lesbians and bisexual women.
Choose Chicago, one of the city’s many tourism-planning tools, posted that “more than one million spectators and visitors of every background and sexual orientation” visit each year.
This week is considered Chicago’s pride week, where different events and shows will work in conjunction with multiple LGBT pride organizations.
Annisse Summerrise, front desk supervisor at Renaissance Blackstone, has been preparing for the rush for the past week: “Last year, we were starting at 100 percent in the middle of the week before the parade. This year, we’re anticipating the same turnout by around Thursday and until next Monday.”
Some of the most luxurious and pricey hotels are located downtown. Popular ones in the area are the Hilton, Renaissance Blackstone and Kimpton’s Hotel Burnham.
“Every year I go up to the pride parade as a sort of pilgrimage,” said Patrick Heffernan, 20, also a resident of Woodridge. “Sometimes I stay with friends, sometimes I stay at the Hilton in the South Loop, but now I’m going to find somewhere cheaper, like around Midway Airport.”
Cheaper alternatives are accessible for any visitors closer to Midway International Airport and O’Hare International Airport.
Melissa Bravo, 20, from Downers Grove, Ill., said she is still new to pride week and expects to get better at finding places to stay during the week.
“Last year was my first year going,” Bravo said. “It was a blast and I want to stay at mainly budget hotels this time around. I did use the hostel on Wabash last year, but I think it’s better for me to look around, learn a bit and find my way.”