For the businesses lining the stretch of N. Halsted St., of Chicago’s “Boystown” neighborhood, Pride season is a festive time full of activity.
Chicago’s Pride happenings, picking up steam near the end of June, are entering their 45th year. A celebration of LGBT culture, Chicago’s Pride Fest last weekend and Pride Parade, taking place Sunday, and other events are a Midwestern slice of National Pride Month, in memory of the Stonewall Riots and the way it paved for gay rights.
Although Chicago Male Salon at 3418 N. Halsted, is closed Sunday and Monday for the occasion according to front desk employee Herani Navarro, the appointment book has been packed.
“We were booked weeks ahead because everybody wants to look fresh, everybody wants to look good,” Navarro said. “Every stylist has at least, I would say, 12 to 13 people every day.”
Shelly Rosenbaum, the retiring owner of former neighborhood pop culture collectibles store Gay Mart (now reopened under new management as Boystown T’s and Collectibles at 3453 N. Halsted), has fond memories of Pride celebrations, especially being in New York City for the 25th anniversary of Stonewall, but found Chicago’s larger crowds started to affect business.
“There certainly is more business this week of the year, but it used to be quite a bit busier before the crowds got so big. A lot of my older customers generally stay away just because it’s too crazy around here,” Rosenbaum said.
Roscoe’s Tavern at 3356 N. Halsted opened in 1987, and has become a standard of Boystown according to Promotions and Marketing Manager Shawn Hazen, with each year getting busier around Pride time.
“The size of pride grows every year,” Hazen said. “Pride’s a huge weekend for us. It’s a huge weekend for the neighborhood. We do look for extra help on the weekend because the amount of security and just hands on deck that we need almost triples.”
“I believe for every gay-related business such as ours, this is by far the largest weekend of the year,” said Art Johnston, co-owner of Sidetrack at 3349 N. Halsted. “Sunday is the busiest day any of us have all year long. I know plenty of gay businesses who pay all their summer’s bills on that one day.”
Johnston, also a founder of the LGBT equality organization Equality Illinois, said that Pride is a time that gets better every year.
“More and more the parade and the day are not simply for my community but it’s a celebration of diversity I think for more people,” Johnston said. “I remember the first times I saw people bring their children to the parade, which was a great treat for me. One of the biggest pieces every year in pride is the PFLAG group. These are essentially parents who march with signs saying ‘I love my gay son,’ and they always get the biggest applause. Bigger than all the performers, bigger than all the baton-twirlers.”
The Chicago Pride Parade will be held Sunday June 29 and start at noon at Montrose Avenue and Broadway in Uptown. For more information visit ChicagoPride.com.