Chicago Is A Drag Festival features more than 50 artists, including internationally-touring headliners, reality TV superstars and homegrown Chicago talent. The event is Friday, June 28, from 4-11 p.m. in the Cheetah Gym parking lot in Andersonville (5238 N. Clark St.).
“We had a vision of Chicago having its own drag festival, inspired by Wigstock or Wigwood,” said Abhijeet Rane. “In 2018, we started putting together our ideal team and artist lineup, in hopes of finding the right venue that would allow us to reach as many queer people possible. We were fortunate to connect the award-winning Back Lot Bash, who believed in our vision and were open to sharing their 15-plus-year platform with us.
“We celebrate a number of very important milestones for the queer community (in 2019, such as) the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, 50 years of Chicago Pride, and 50 years of Chicago’s iconic Baton Lounge. Keeping these events in mind, we decided to have Chicago Is A Drag Festival debut with 50 drag artists (who) represent the past, present and future of Chicago drag.”
Event organizers include Rane, plus A Queer Pride (Scott Cramer), Melissa Heslpelt and Bambi Banks-Couleé – all of whom live on Chicago’s North Side.
A Queer Pride (AQP) is a collective of seasoned professionals from Chicago’s nightlife landscape, working together to celebrate Pride throughout the year. A combined effort between all its members, AQP actively seeks to provide a platform to marginalized and underrepresented members of the LGBTQ community in a political climate that needs these voices to be heard even louder. AQP was created last June as a collective to curate various Pride programming, most notably “Junipero Disco” pop-up bar in Logan Square, which feature guest acts such as Charli XCX and Mykki Blanco, among 14 nightlife event popups.
Cramer is a Chicago area native, while Rane, Heslpelt and Banks-Coulee moved to Chicago for school and then decided to stay and be part of the event and nightlife industry.
“Chicago Is A Drag Festival is really excited to have a very diverse group of headliners for the festival,” Rane said. “Performance headliners include Raja, the winner of Season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, who has always been an Avant Garde drag artist who has reshaped contemporary drag culture; and Candis Cayne, a renowned trans actress, choreographer and activist who was also a past winner of the Miss Continental drag pageant. Cayne also was the first transgender actress to play a recurring transgender character on primetime national TV.
“We also are really excited to have Spikey Van Dykey, who has had a strong hand in shaping modern drag king culture. Our guest hosts for the festival include reality TV star Tiffany Pollard, making her return to Chicago nightlife from earlier this year, with YouTube sensation TS Madison.
“Our lineup of Chicago performers is truly focused on uplifting artists who are larger than life with their drag and bring a unique Chicago twist to what they do. Chicago Is A Drag Festival is very proud to have some very big names from the current Chicago drag landscape, including T Rex, Lucy Stoole, Dida Ritz, Kat Sass, Imp Queen, Aunty Chan and more, alongside former Miss Continental winners Mimi Marks, Kelly Lauren and Mokha Montrese, and AFAB burlesque/pageant titleholders such as Sigourney Beaver, Switch The Boi and Dusty Bahls.”
The festival also will feature drag acts that incorporate live music, bands, back-up dancers, and even skilled sideshow acts, such as flames and sparks.
“The response for Chicago Is A Drag Festival has been immensely positive and with the support of the community we hope to continue having the festival annually, and expanding it each year to include more artists, headliners and activities,” Rane said.
In future years, organizers hope to expand and include local talent from other drag scenes in the Midwest.
The festival’s DJ lineup represents artists from various points of Chicago nightlife who have been influential in creating and promoting spaces of drag and gender non-conforming performers, Rane said. The DJ crew includes Dapper (smallWorld Collective), Draco (Teen Witch Fan Club), Lamia (Swoon), Vitigrrl (Peach) and [X]P (Duro) throughout the day.
AQP has curated a ‘Drag Alley’ that will feature several local vendors and artists who are instrumental to drag, with everything from nails, summer fashion, merchandise and more, along with unique Arda Wigs, Dispensary 33 and Glitter Guts photo booth.
The festival also will have a Grassroots “Game Lounge,” with a variety of vintage arcade games and life-size board games. There also will be educational booths with information on medical marijuana, CBD treatments, and more.
The venue capacity is 1,500 and organizers have sold-out of VIP Meet & Greet Tickets.
GA tickets are still available at www.chicagoisadrag.com