LAKEVIEW — LGBTQ-friendly street festival Market Days is making its return to Lakeview this summer after being canceled last year due to the pandemic.
The festival, which draws thousands of people from all over the country to Chicago’s LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood, is returning Aug. 6-8, expanding this year with a Friday night edition, according to organizers at the Northalsted Business Alliance.
“The committee is hard at work selecting performers, signing contracts and making plans for an exciting weekend in Chicago this summer,” said Mark Liberson, chair of the Business Alliance.
The announcement came hours after Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Chicago could be “fully open” without capacity limits by July 4 if coronavirus cases continue to decline and vaccinations continue.
The first Market Days was held in August 1982 and featured only a handful of folding tables and chairs on the sidewalk. Since then, the festival has grown to take over a half-mile stretch of North Halsted Street from Belmont Avenue to Addison Street.
The festival features five outdoor stages with all-day lineups of DJs, live music and drag performers. Festivalgoers can also shop at about 300 vendors selling arts, crafts, food and drinks. A $15 donation is recommended for entry to support the festival’s costs.
“We look forward to the possibility of welcoming neighbors and visitors alike to this iconic event,” business alliance President Ramesh Ariyanayakam said. “While planning is underway, we will remain in continual contact with the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois and monitor CDC guidelines to be flexible in our approach to meet all necessary requirements to produce a safe event.”
Market Days will mark the first street festival returning to Chicago’s LGBTQ neighborhood in more than a year.
The annual Pride Fest, which is separate from Market Days and commemorates the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Uprisings in June, also was canceled last year because of the pandemic.
Pride Fest organizers have said it’s possible the celebration could return this year — but not until after Market Days so the Northalsted Business Alliance has adequate time to plan.
The annual Pride Parade — typically held the last Sunday in June — is likely to be delayed as well, 2021 coordinator Tim Frye has said.
“We’re waiting for municipal guidance for a late summer/early fall Pride Parade,” Frye said. “We had to cancel last year’s parade, but we’re cautiously optimistic that we can go forward — maybe a little later than usual — this year.”
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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