TRAVERSE CITY — It’s been in the works on and off for about two years, but Up North Pride’s annual celebration has arrived.
Pandemic-related concerns forced the organization that advocates for LGBTQ issues to go all-digital for its annual event in 2020 and postpone any in-person activities, organization President Nick Viox said. That postponement depended on the number of vendors and when the organization was able to do it. With lockdowns ending in fall 2020, the organization put together a number of art exhibits called “Catharsis” for Pride Month in June, then opted for a bigger celebration in October.
That was both to give volunteers time to plan and in keeping with the trend from other pride celebrations around the state, Viox said.
“We are excited to have our community back together to see the faces, because what to me is one of the best parts of Up North Pride are the faces of pride, and seeing the community come out for one another and seeing us find a place together,” he said.
COVID-19 is still a concern, so the organ- ization planned all outdoor events and opted for bigger venues for the largest parts of its event, Viox said. People who attend are encouraged to mask up, especially if they’re not vaccinated, and testing will be available at the picnic.
Pride Celebration starts with Pride Ride, a quick two-wheeled jaunt through downtown Traverse City in partnership with El Grupo Norte, according to Up North Pride. It starts at F&M Park at 5 p.m., leaves 15 minutes later and ends at Little Fleet.
That’s where the annual sign-making party starts at 6 p.m. There will be supplies, courtesy of Ampersand Letting Lab, to make posters for Saturday’s visibility march.
Friday’s comedy show at Short’s Brewing in Elk Rapids has already sold out. Those who have tickets will watch three nationally touring LGBTQ comedians, Kristin Key, Arlo Weirhauser and Brooklyn Jones.
On Saturday, Dharamsala Yoga in Traverse City will host a vinyasa flow class for any level, BYO-yoga mat, at 10:30 a.m. Space is limited and can be reserved online at www.upnorthpride.com/events.
Later on Saturday, the annual Pride Picnic is at F&M Park from 1-4 p.m., complete with live music, kids activities and food vendors. That’s followed by the Visibility March, starting with a rally at the park at 4 p.m. then down Front Street to the Open Space from 5-5:30 p.m.
There, BenDeLaCreme of RuPaul’s Drag Race will headline Drag Night from 6-10 p.m. with local and regional performers (the organizers recommend parental guidance).
The night closes out with a silent disco from 10 p.m. to midnight, with 2 Bays Productions cranking tunes over wireless headphones for after-hours dancing.
The Big Gay Brunch will close Pride Celebration Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Open Space. Traverse Symphony Orchestra will play cabaret music and a handful of vendors will sell food and drinks.
Viox said the brunch is a more “robust” version of the celebration’s typical wind-down event, complete with a Judy Garland impersonator singing for the crowd.
Whether October will be the new home for Pride Celebration remains to be seen, Viox said. This week’s events will give the organization and vendors a chance to see if it works for them.
“As a volunteer board, we have to base it off of what we have capacity to do, but also what our community wants,” he said. “We want to hear what the community feels is appropriate for how they would like to celebrate, and we support however they think we should move forward.”