by Jessica Carreras
LANSING – With a new team in place, Michigan Pride is planning for their 2010 summer pride celebration – even though it’s still 2009. But with ideas like a new location, big-name entertainment and a repeat of this year’s successful White Party, they need all the time they can get.
“There are a number of new people who are either involved for the first time or just got involved last year and I think especially the ones who got involved last year realized that this is a huge undertaking,” said new co-chair Berl Schwartz, publisher of Lansing alt-magazine City Pulse. “Really, to do it right, we need to start a lot earlier and meet more often.”
The group is meeting every two weeks as a board and already has some big ideas in the works for the event, which takes place in Lansing every June.
The biggest feat for 2010? Moving the festival.
“All the details have not been worked out, but we are definitely planning to move from downtown Lansing to Old Town,” Schwartz divulged. “It’s an old warehouse district that, over the years, has been redeveloped into sort of an arts and entertainment area. It’s very gay supportive, so we think it’d be nice for a change – and who knows – it might become a permanent location.”
The new location will most likely run along the Grand River in a local park adjacent to Old Town, and will still include a march to the Capitol – albeit with a longer route than in previous years. But the Michigan Pride team, which tried to move the location last year but ran out of time to make the necessary arrangements, insists that the LGBT-friendly part of Lansing is better suited for the Pride festival.
Old Town encompasses local gay hangouts Esquire Bar, Spiral Dance Bar and The Chrome Cat.
The latter of the three, owned by lesbians Michelle Taylor and Lisa Whitehead, is home to Michigan Pride’s meetings, and Taylor has also recently come on as a co-chair to the group.
Getting involved with Pride, she said, is something that happened gradually, but was part of the newish business’s overall plan. “When we started Chrome Cat, the basic premise of what we wanted to do was to be as much a community sponsor as a bar/restaurant,” Taylor said. “We really have been trying to focus on doing things to host events, being a meeting place for people.”
Last year, the bar was part of the first-ever White Party, which took over Old Town the night before the annual festival and march. Since then, they have played host to many fundraising events – including an upcoming performance of “Grease” on Nov. 17 – with Michigan Pride members performing in drag.
Taylor said the response to the ’50s-style drag show was so overwhelming that they’re planning a second – and possibly third – date for the performance. “We had so much great feedback right away that we are going to have to do two or even three events,” she said, adding with a laugh that, “unfortunately, I’m one of the performers in it.”
Schwartz won’t be donning a dress, due to the fact that he participates in a radio show on local station 92-X early on Wednesday mornings. But he said he’s excited about this and other upcoming fundraisers for Michigan Pride.
“I think we’re more ambitious about what we want to do,” he said of the Pride team. “We don’t see it as just being about the one event. We see it as trying to build a statewide organization that hopefully will have more of a voice in gay issues throughout the year.
“And we’re planning some events along the way to fundraise.”
Beyond the upcoming “Grease” shows, August’s Pride Pool Party and the National Coming Out Day pizza party for Lansing youth, that will include a reprise of last spring’s silent auction brunch at Lansing’s Radisson Hotel, plus some possible weekly events like poker or bingo nights at local hangouts.
Fundraising, Schwartz admitted, remains the biggest concern for Michigan Pride – especially with plans to add bigger (read: more expensive) entertainment acts to next year’s festival. “Times are tough, and that’s why we’re really trying to figure out ways to do more fundraising throughout the year,” he said. “It’s certainly the biggest challenge we have.”
But once more pieces begin to fall into place, Schwartz said that Michigan Pride hopes to grow beyond anything it has ever been in the past. Sponsoring a youth prom. Becoming “the” go-to Pride event in Michigan. And someday, encompassing other Prides under their umbrella.
“I think it’s good that we’re thinking big, but at the same time, we need to be realistic,” Schwartz cautioned. “It’s a big job to put on this event (Michigan Pride). That’s not to say that down the road, when we successfully move this event and we’ve got it under our belt that we wouldn’t want to see if we could expand to help foster pride events elsewhere in the state.”
But for now, even with the 2010 Michigan Pride festival half a year away, they already have a lot to do. Keep updated on the goings on of Michigan Pride by visiting http://www.michiganpride.org.
“Grease – The Drag Show”
9 p.m. Nov. 17
The Chrome Cat
226 E. Grand River, Lansing