Feature, Local News

Hundreds gather in Irwin Park for live music and Pride Month celebration

Hundreds of community members gathered in Homewood’s Irwin Park for the annual Starry Nights concert. They watched the musical performances from the Bel Canto Choir and the classic rock cover band The PriSSillas.

This year’s Starry Nights was a Pride Month celebration with Pride-themed vendors and Pride-themed performances. The event was organized by the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District and the villages of Homewood and Flossmoor.

Community members sat on the grass with lawn chairs and beach towels. Some had Pride-themed lawn chairs, and at least one group had a beach towel with the Pride colors. Others waved Pride flags that were handed out at the Lighthouse LGBTQ’s booth.

The Lighthouse is an organization in Homewood that, according to their Facebook account, provides “free support for teens & young adults who are processing their sexual and gender identity.” Their table sold Pride 2023 T-shirts with proceeds going to the organization.

The Bel Canto Choir was the first musical act to perform. They sang “Be Who You Are” by Bethany Unruh and Ryan Main and “Love is Love.” The entirety of the “Love is Love” lyrics were the lines “love is love” and “all you need is love” repeated in different ways.

“My own headframe is always to be inclusive. Let’s bring everybody together. Let’s love everyone. That’s the best way to be as far as I’m concerned. And this event is that times eleven,” Bel Canto Choir member Steve Brown said.

The PriSSillas, an all-women, four-piece band with three LGBTQ members, performed covers from Fleetwood Mac, Johnny Cash, Rod Stewart, Tom Petty and others. They also covered “Lola” by the Kinks, a rock song about falling in love with a transgender woman that was written in 1970.

Lisa Thomen, lead singer and acoustic guitar player for the band, said “Lola” is a regular in their setlist. She said that when the song was written “gives you even more perspective on the fact that this community has been around for a really long time.”

Thomen said “You Need to Calm Down” by Taylor Swift, a song with a GLAAD reference and drag queens in the music video, hasn’t been a regular in their setlist. She said they performed it at this event in honor of Pride Month.

  • Brooke King-LaBreck, left, and Rev. Julie Van Til at the Flossmoor Community Church table at Starry Nights/Pride Night on June 9. (Nick Ulanowski/H-F Chronicle)
    Brooke King-LaBreck, left, and Rev. Julie Van Til at the Flossmoor Community Church table at Starry Nights/Pride Night on June 9. (Nick Ulanowski/H-F Chronicle)

“The more love and acceptance we can share one person by one person, let alone bringing groups like this together, that’s the best that we can do. Not that we can simply walk away from the hate but if we can fill it with love then that’s something,” said Angela Fett, guitarist and vocalist for the PriSSillas, speaking on the power of music and Pride Month celebrations.

Creative Approaches to Therapy had a booth where artist Emalaee Kay painted the faces of attendees, many of with Pride-themed colors. Kay said she painted about 40 or 50 people throughout the evening.

“I’m really proud to live in Homewood. I feel like Homewood has been pretty progressive, pretty supportive of the LGBTQ+ community,” Kay said, adding that she loves the Pride colors in downtown Homewood. “I think it really makes people feel welcome and seen. That visibility is really important, especially with everything going on in the world right now.”

Planned Parenthood of Illinois had a table where they gave away free condoms, Pride-themed stickers, and information about their organization.

“I think it’s about 500 anti-LGBTQ bills that have been introduced in state legislatures across the country this year,” said Planned Parenthood of Illinois program manager Adelaide Zwick. “It’s more important than ever that we’re really vocal about showing support for the [LGBTQ] community and supporting everybody – and making sure we’re providing protections and resources for everybody who needs it.” 

Flossmoor Community church had a table with the Pride colors and the words “love always wins” displayed in large letters. Rev. Julie Van Till said the church was providing resources on how to be a better ally to both Christians and non-Christians.

“We’re really glad to be here to express the expansiveness of God’s love in our community,” Van Till said. “We want people to know that there is a place they can come with their questions, their doubts, their fears, their desire for a deeper connection with themselves and with God, that embraces them for exactly who they are.”

Other vendors included Twisted Q, Rabid Brewery, Aurelio’s Pizza, Wiley’s Grill and the local cake and pie maker, Confections.

“We’ve had overwhelming positive feedback from everybody,” Homewood village events manager Marla Youngblood said, regarding making Starry Nights a Pride-themed event. “I can’t say there’s been one negative thing that I’ve seen or heard.”

“We’ve just always been a community that is inclusive for everybody,” Youngblood said.

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