BY DARIUS OSBORNE
Ann Arbor is not only known for its world-renowned University of Michigan, but for its impeccable support and programs for the LGBTQ community. This year marks the 23rd anniversary of OUTFest, a pride celebration held Aug. 4-6, hosted by the Jim Toy Community Center. The event’s goal is to celebrate the LGBTQ community and allyship in the Ann Arbor area, and to support the Jim Toy Community Center.
Jim Toy is a legendary figure in the LGBTQ activist community, and the organization which bears his name is the premier community center and resource for LGBTQ-identifying people. OUTFest festivities offered include a movie night, drag revues, performance by the Out Loud Chorus, a beer and wine garden, great food, yoga, art, inspirational guest speakers, Kid Zone, a picnic and much more. All are welcome to take part in the celebration, and proceeds benefit programs and events from the Jim Toy Community Center.
What makes OUTFest stand out among other pride events? It caters to all tastes and interests. If you are most interested in watching performances, look no further than the the main stage which will feature a drag revue, burlesque performance, Redi & the Midnight Hour, and special guest Todrick Hall, who will no doubt put on a spectacular show. Todrick Hall started his career as a ballet dancer and later worked on big projects such as The Color Purple on Broadway and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, was a contestant in the ninth season of American Idol, and starred as Lola, a drag queen cabaret performer, in the Broadway musical Kinky Boots.
OUTFest takes place in Kerrytown, which is one of the biggest LGBTQ-friendly areas in the region. You’ll find LGBTQ literature in the Common Language bookstore, where you can browse through fiction, non-fiction and even adult themed novels. Close by is aut BAR, a gay-owned watering hole which has been the heart of Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown area since 1995. The bar has some of the best happy hour specials and brunch options you can imagine.
The festival even offers a Friday movie night where you can sit and enjoy a low-key evening with family and friends. Every year the movie selection is different, so be prepared for a sing-along musical or maybe an animated, themed screening! Kids are a top priority at OUTFest, as well. On Saturday there will be a Kid Zone with a bounce house, face painting, games and even a drag queen book reading. How cool is that?
Night life in the city of Ann Arbor is unmatched by other surrounding cities. Necto Nightclub is arguably the most popular dance club in the city, with its themed nights that include Factory Monday, Mix Thursday, Pride Friday and Frequency Saturday. This club has the largest and longest running LGBTQ night in Michigan since 1984. Not to mention the long and lavish guest list over the years which includes an abundance of amazing hosts and performers. This year is no different because the weekend of OUTFest the nightclub will feature the talented Katya, from RuPaul’s Drag Race. If you aren’t able to make it to Necto Nightclub then you may want to come another week and head on over to “Candy Bar” night at Live nightclub, which takes place every Thursday night.
Boylesque is the place to be for a night of remarkable entertainment by some of the most talented drag queens and drag kings in the region. The drag performers are mostly local, but some visit as special guests from other cities and states. So, if you are in the mood for some sparkle (and plenty of sass) you don’t want to miss the show. Let’s not forget Drag Queen Bingo, as well. The queens don’t hold back with the hilarious stories and jokes to keep you entertained while playing your bingo cards. Both events are held at Ypsilanti’s local pub, the Tap Room, which is located on Michigan Ave. Ypsilanti is a close neighbor to Ann Arbor — located just 15 minutes away.
The Ann Arbor’s People’s Food Co-Op & Cafe Verde offer some healthy and organic food and drinks if you want to do some grocery shopping or grab a light lunch. Or, you can swing by the famous Zingerman’s Delicatessen where they offer mouth watering desserts and some of best sandwiches in the area — that have even impressed President Barack Obama. For the vegan crowd, the The Lunch Room has a wide variety of options as well.
The host hotel for OUTFest is the Holiday Inn Ann Arbor Near the University of Michigan. Guests will love the convenient location with easy access to major interstates and transportation – as well as parking, pet-friendly accommodations, and accessible rooms for guests with disabilities. Give them a call, mention you’re attending OUTFest, and get a special group rate.
Ann Arbor’s entertainment scene is ever-growing and there’s always something to get excited about. People from all over the world come to our great city for education, business or pleasure. For sure, you’ll be pleased by how much this city has to offer.