And it was the first year that the Outlaws were aligned with US99, Chicago’s biggest country music station.

The Second City Outlaws have been around since 2017, with 60 percent male, and members ranging in age from their upper-20s to upper-50s. And they are the lone country music dance performing group in Chicago. (Country dancing groups like the Chi-Town Squares and Queer Contra do not focus on performing at street fairs and in the Pride Parade like the Second City Outlaws do.)

“We love square dancing and contra dancing and we incorporate a lot of those styles of dance into our routines,” said Ricky Martel, 51, who lives in Rogers Park, is the founder of the Second City Outlaws and serves on its board of directors as the treasurer.

“We are very happy that US99 found us and offered the invitation to partner in the Pride Parade.  Thankfully, as the visible face of country dancing in Chicago, they reached out to us after seeing our social media presence.

“US99 is an amazing sponsor, helping us pay for the parade entry fee, the float, the sound system, the banner, the volunteer t-shirts and the handouts that (were) distributed to the crowd.  In addition to all of this generosity, they created some fantastic co-branded artwork and other materials that we could share on social media.  We couldn’t have asked for a better partner.  Best of all, it is going to be an ongoing partnership for future parades and other performances.

“Chicago’s hottest country music goes hand in hand with the country dancing of the Second City Outlaws. We couldn’t be happier.”

Martel has been dancing for decades.  He was, for instance, cast as a dancer in his high school musical productions of Oklahoma and Annie Get Your Gun.  “It was the first time I danced in jeans and cowboy boots, and it’s come naturally to me ever since.”

He has performed country dances in street fairs and in the Pride Parade annually since 2010 when he became a member of the now-defunct Windy City Cowboys.

The Second City Outlaws, an off-shoot of the Windy City Cowboys, officially launched as a non-profit community organization in 2019.

“Our mission is to use our status as the publicly visible face of country dancing in Chicago to help people learn about where and when they can enjoy country-themed events,” Martel said. “With our independent non-profit status and mission, we are happy to extend the gesture of partnership and collaboration to anyone and everyone who is making the effort to celebrate country music.”

To that, the Second City Outlaws have co-hosted such events as the Cowboy Round Up, held the second Friday of every month at Touché and Chicago’s Original Country Dance on the third Sunday of every month at The Call.

“One of the things we do before we perform at street fairs is encourage audience participation and we invite the crowd to participate in a line dance lesson,” Martel said.  “This went extremely well at MidsommarFest; it was a highlight when we had the street filled with people up on their feet, dancing and having fun. That’s really what it’s all about and why we do this.”

The Pride Parade was an outstanding memory as it was their inaugural year partnering with US99, Martel said. “(With) the rain and lightning (during the parade), we were so thankful that we made it all the way down Halsted to Belmont before the rain ended it completely.”

So what’s planned for EdgeFest?

“We are so excited to deliver our performance that features the best in country music, old and new.  In addition, we will be encouraging audience participation to get them on their feet and learn some fun and easy line dances.” Martel said.

“The Second City Outlaws are special because we are open-minded, willing to evolve and grow.  We are welcoming of all country music fans of any age, race or gender identity.  We will always extend the gesture of collaboration to any entity that wants to celebrate the joy and fun of country music and country dancing.

“Our style of country dancing is quite diverse. We include everything from line-dancing and two-stepping into our routines.  Performances also can have some country cha-cha moves.”

The Second City Outlaws are 80 percent LGBT, with 20 percent straight allies.

“The Second City Outlaws believe in country dancing and country music in Chicago with no limits. That means there is no single place that is exclusively doing country,” Martel said.  “It could be at The Call (or) at Touché.  It could be at some place new that hasn’t started yet. We want to encourage the growth of country-themed events here in the city. We believe that partnering and coming together with entities like US99 put us on the right track toward making that happen. There (are) country music and country dancing fans who we want to encourage to come out of the closet. We live in a very divisive age where it’s easy to judge country music as a style that is not accepting of the LGBTQ community.  But that’s simply not the case. There’s no need be shy when there’s so much country fabulous fun to be had.”

For more information about the Second City Outlaws, including joining, send an email to: secondcityoutlaws@outlook.com or call 847-920-7811. In addition, you can look for the group on Meetup.com under Chicago LGBTQ Country Dancing.  The organization’s website is, www.secondcityoutlaws.org.

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