Ann Arbor Pride creates virtual festival space

Annual LGBTQ+ celebration will be entirely online this August

Ann Arbor Pride will be held virtually on August 1. Photo | Jim Toy Community Center. (Jim Toy Community Center)

ANN ARBOR. Mich. – For the first time in its 26-year run, this year’s Ann Arbor Pride will be hosted entirely online. While the in-person celebrations are cancelled, organizer Joe Schoch says that there is still plenty to look forward to.

“Safety and security is always a top priority when it comes to pride,” Schoch said. “This year safety and security took on a new meaning with COVID.”

The virtual event will be broadcast August 1, and will be free to watch live on the Ann Arbor Pride website. Ann Arbor Pride has been held since 1995 and is hosted by the Jim Toy Community Center, which provides resources for the LGBTQ+ community in Washtenaw county.

Some of the activities attendees can expect are two separate live broadcasts, a virtual vendor space, and silent auction. One livestream will show the Mainstage, which will feature yoga, dancers, poetry reading, drag, bands, musicians, and artists. The other livestream will be for the kid zone, with arts and crafts, drag queen story time, and messages of love and support and resources for kids and families.

“The kid zone is not something you see at a whole bunch of Prides,” Schoch said. “But it’s important to us because there are queer parents, there are queer families, there are queer kids. We wanted Ann Arbor Pride to be a space where anybody can gather, it doesn’t have to be alcohol-centric.”

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One of the features of this year’s celebration will be a silent auction. In previous years, all proceeds have gone directly to the community center, but this year, money raised from the silent auction will go to the local businesses that donated the auction item.

Schoch said: “We wanted to make sure we found ways to support local businesses, local artists, people who might have been out of work and are still out of work.”

Larger companies that are participating in the auction will be choosing a charity to donate their proceeds to.

An unexpected benefit from the switch to a 100 percent virtual platform has been the increased accessibility of the event. What was previously limited to Southeast Michigan residents can now be shared with family and friends near and far.

“We think that this has evolved what Pride is going to look like in the future as well,” Schoch said. “I think there’s room for this [virtual] component to make sure it continues to be accessible.”

Updates on this year’s vendors, performances, and events can be found through Ann Arbor Pride on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.