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International Mr Leather, Chicago Pride and other festivals to celebrate summer in Illinois

Written by gaytourism

Colorful balloons spell out “LIFE IS SWEET” on the intersection of Halsted and Roscoe in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood during the annual Pride Festival Parade (Photo: Illinois Office of Tourism)

Chicago in Illinois is one of the most enticing cities in the US, with breathtaking architecture, a reputation for amazing restaurants and a big gay scene based around Boystown.

Its LGBTI scene comes together each year to celebrate Pride, but it’s not the only festival coming to Illinois this year

Chicago will also be playing host to the 40th anniversary of International Mr Leather festival, pulling in attendees from the four corners of the globe. Other Illinois cities such as Springfield and Champaign also go all out with their own Pride festivities.

Check out our suggestions below.

Chicago Pride in Illinois

Chicago Pride (Photo: Illinois Office of Tourism)

Chicago Pride

Sunday 24 June, 2018

Not only is Chicago Pride one of the biggest summer events in the city of Chicago, it’s one of the biggest Pride events in the US. Last year’s parade had over 150 entries and around one million spectators and participants,

This year’s Pride Parade will be the city’s 49th. It kicks off at noon on Sunday 24 June.

It’s preceded a week earlier by Chicago PrideFest (16-17 June). This is a two-day street festival taking over the Boystown district the weekend before the official Pride Parade. PrideFest organizers are expecting over 100,000 participants.

This mini-Pride will feature three stages, DJs and drag shows, plenty of food and drink and over 100 arts and craft and merchant vendors. Just be sure to save some energy for the following weekend’s parade!

The city’s gay bars and clubs will all be hosting Pride-related activity, with Crush Chicago organizing a whole weekend of Pride-associated parties for women.

Whilst there, check out the Legacy Project walk in Boystown. Part outdoor museum walk, part education project and installation, you’ll find out about many of the most famous faces in US LGBTI history, with plaques dotted around the neighborhood celebrating their legacy.

International Mr Leather, Chicago, Illinois

International Mr Leather (Photo:

International Mr Leather

24 – 28 May, 2018

International Mr Leather is one of those wild weekends that every gay man should think about visiting at least once in their lifetime. If you’ve never been, what could be better than visiting for its 40th anniversary?

Surely the biggest gathering of leather men in the world, the International Mr Leather is a Tom of Finland fantasy made real. It draws nearly 20,000 each year to Chicago for a celebration of everything leather and fetish. It truly is a unique event and many participants return year after year.

The 2018 event will run Thursday 24 May until Monday 28 May. The centerpiece of the event is the Mr Leather contest, but there are plenty of associated parties and related events: ‘Puppy Yoga’ being one of the more unusual!

Champain-Urbana Pride in Illinois

Champaign-Urbana Pride (Photo: Samuel Logan)

CU Pride

September, 2018

Looking for something a little less full-on to International Mr Leather? Let us point you in the direction of Champaign-Urbana Pride, which combines LGBTI empowerment with small city hospitality.

Champaign and Urbana are neighboring twin cities in central Illinois. Their 9th annual pride festival returns on the first or second weekend of September 2018 (dates TBC).

It includes plenty of parties, a parade and festival on Saturday 15 September and a near-legendary drag brunch. The day kicks off with a family fun area organized by the local UP Center, before the main parade in Downtown Champaign.

Springfield PrideFest in Illinois

Springfield PrideFest (Photo: Springfield PrideFest | Facebook)

Springfield Pridefest

19 May, 2018

Springfield is the state capital of Illinois. Perfect for a late Spring getaway, its 8th annual Springfield Pridefest returns on Saturday 19 May.

Expect a parade, street fair and drag-queen heavy selection of performances across two stages. Each element of the day will promote this year’s theme: ‘No H8. No Labels’.

Combine camp fun and Pride partying with some downtime exploring the history of this beautiful Midwest city. Springfield is packed with history. It’s home to the State Capitol building and Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Lincoln lived in the city for much of his life).

A festival goer at Chicago Pride in Illinois

Chicago Pride (Photo: James Lindsey | Illinois Office of Tourism)


8-10 June, 2018

If you’re planning to visit Chicago in early June, try to coordinate your visit with the annual Midsommarfest.

Taking place in the Andersonville neighborhood of the city, you can enjoy two days and three nights of music, performances, dancing and family fun. You’ll also be spoilt with dining options from some of the city’s hottest food vendors, plus dozens of arts and crafts stalls. Be sure to leave some space in your luggage for better-than-average souvenirs!

Illinois Office of Tourism is a client of Gay Star News.

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