The Ypsi Pride festival is far from being canceled. But this year, rather than the traditional block party that takes up most of downtown Ypsilanti and South Washington Street, the festival will be held on a Facebook livestream on June 5 starting at 5 p.m.
“We never discussed canceling it. We were really just starting to talk about how we could still have a presence in the community for Pride month,” said Heather Berkovitz, chair member of the YpsiPride festival.
The stream will consist of performances by many local entertainers. Viewers can expect to see drag performances, burlesque shows, live music from bands, poetry readings and more. After the lineup of entertainers, there will be an afterparty that will go until around midnight with several DJs.
“Anyone who applied to be live will have either submitted a video to be shown or be live in front of us. It is just out of their living rooms as opposed to the Ypsilanti big stage,” Berkovitz said. “We are encouraging people during the event to tip the performers, just like we would if they were on the stage. To give a little extra of what they have is important because this is how a lot of the performers make a living.”
The performers’ Venmo, Cash App and PayPal accounts will be listed on the screen during the performances for the audience to be able to send tips. Between each performance, there will also be brief commercials that advertise local businesses that have sponsored Ypsi Pride and the vendors who planned to sell their merchandise at the festival. There will also be information on local nonprofits that usually gather a lot of volunteers and recognition from their booths at the Pride festival.
The decision to go virtual was in question for weeks before the original stay-at-home order was issued.
“We started to see the writing on the wall as it was mixing with our anxiety of planning an event that was supposed to encourage people to meet up in such a tight space on Washington Street,” Berkovitz said.
In addition, the chair members of Ypsi Pride have come up with another way to show support for the LGBTQ community throughout Pride month. The Ypsilanti Area Rainbow Decoration, or Project YARD, is a way to decorate Ypsilanti with as many rainbows as possible during the entire month of June. There is a Facebook page dedicated to ideas on how to decorate and to share pictures.
“We’re decorating the town with rainbows and encouraging everyone in Ypsilanti to do the same,” Berkovitz said. “So whether that be your front porch, windows, yard or trees, just throw up handmade decorations and whatever you can do to make your house look [inclusive] as possible.”
On May 31, Berkovitz and several other volunteers are getting downtown Ypslinati ready for Pride month early by painting rainbows on as many crosswalks as they can.
“Our main goal in doing this is to have as much presence in Pride month as we can while having everyone being safe at home and social distancing,” Berkovitz said.
In addition, several local businesses have agreed to paint their windows with rainbows to be part of the Pride celebration.
“We just want to thank people for continuing to support Ypsi Pride and hope they tune in at 5 p.m. on June 5,” Berkovitz said. “We have hope that with everyone staying at home we can see them in person next year.”
To tune in to the livestream and more details on the Ypsilanti Pride festival, visit facebook.com/YpsiPride/.