One of the largest one-day events in Grand Rapids, the festival continues to grow in popularity each year. In fact, there were more than 11,000 people in attendance in 2018, which was the festival’s 30th anniversary.
The Pride Festival focuses on bringing the LGBTQ community together with local businesses, allies, and organizations to celebrate diversity and inclusion. After all, pride is all about celebrating who you’re “Proud to Be,” which is the theme of this year’s festival.
Admission is $8, and all proceeds go to the Grand Rapids Pride Center in support of social programs, support groups, health initiatives, advocacy, and more.
“Come as you are and celebrate however you want,” says Thomas Pierce, executive director for Grand Rapids Pride Center. “We’re looking to keep people active at the event and are hoping to have something for everyone.”
The event features more than 100 vendors, a Proud to be Heard Community Stage with local LGBTQ artists, and the Main Stage with live drag performances and three national headlining acts.
Attendee wearing pride flags in her hair at the Grand Rapids Pride Festival
Photo Credit: Eric Zuniga
New This Year
One new addition this year is a dedicated children and family area sponsored by Meijer in partnership with the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, Children’s Advocacy Center, and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA).
UICA will also be handing out wristbands at the event that are good for free admission to the museum that day.
Bell’s Brewery and Smirnoff will be there, and they’re setting up two separate game and activity areas featuring corn hole and other popular yard games.
Another addition this year will be a community stage on Calder Plaza that features local talent organized by The Drunken Retort. Visitors can expect to see monologues, poetry readings, spoken word, poetry slam, and banters back and forth between performers.
Batty Davis performing at 2018 Pride Festival in Grand Rapids
Photo Credit: Eric Zuniga, featuring a performance by Batty Davis
In recent years, the Pride Center has started to bring in headlining talent to attract even more people to the festival. The Pride Center and Pride Festival celebrated 30 years last year and brought in well-known talent including Betty Who, David Hernandez, and En Vogue.
This year's headliner performer is MAX, an iHeart 2019 Best New Pop Artist nominee. His hit single "Lights Down Low" on the Hell's Kitchen Angel album earned him double platinum certifications in the US and Canada.
Grammy-award winning singer/songwriter, actress, and philanthropist Mýa, will also headline this year's Pride Festival. The opening act will be Sizzy Rocket, an underground pop musician who is big on the West Coast. Check out the full Main Stage schedule below:
Main Stage Schedule
- 5:45PM -- Welcome & Remembering Those Before Us, Mayor Rosalynn Bliss
- 6:00PM -- Grand Rapids Drag Brunch Show
- 6:30PM -- Sizzy Rocket
- 7:30PM -- Beauty Beyond Drag Show
- 8:00PM -- Mya
- 9:00PM -- MAX
- 9;45PM -- PowerDiva Productions Drag Show
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
Bell’s Brewery is a sponsor of Pride Festival, and a variety of beer, wine, and other beverages will be available to purchase at the event.
A food court will take over a portion of the Fifth Third Bank parking lot just adjacent to Calder Plaza. A few food vendors who will be in attendance include BD’s BBQ, Gettin’ Fresh, Patty Matters, Pressed in Time, Underground Cookie Club, and Furniture City Creamery, among others.
A variety of other community organizations and businesses will be present for the street festival portion of the event that will span Ottawa Avenue between Michigan Street and Lyon Street.
Spectrum Health’s All of Us research program and Healthy Pride Internal Resource Group will be on-hand as well as Hungerford Nichols, Blue Cross Blue Shield, the GVSU Alumni Association. Most groups attend to share their mission and commitment to the LGBTQ community.
Several Pride Festival Attendees in Grand Rapids wearing Pride Flags as capes
Photo Credit: Eric Zuniga
Get Involved: Volunteer
If you have some spare time and would like to be more involved, the Pride Center still needs volunteers for this year’s event. A variety of roles are still available including staffing the main entry to the event, operating beer tents, staffing the VIP lounge, assisting with survey collection, and staffing the Grand Rapids Pride Center’s tent where merchandise is available for purchase.
Volunteering during the Pride Festival is a great way to support this event and the mission of the Pride Center, whether you're a local or a visitor.
If you are interested in volunteering, feel free to contact the Pride Center at 616-458-3511.
Up close view of Pride buttons on a vest of a Pride Festival attendee
Photo Credit: Eric Zuniga
Pride Happenings Around Town
There are a variety of different pride-related events taking place throughout the month of June (and beyond) and all weekend long during the Grand Rapids Pride Festival. Here are a few to consider:
June 9 – Drag Queen story time at Books and Mortar from 2 – 3 PM.
June 13 - Zoko 822 and Garage Bar and Grill are hosting the annual “Zorage” event at Zoko 822’s outside patio space. A portion of proceeds from the event will benefit the Pride Center.
June 14 – Rumors Nightclub is hosting its annual White Party on Friday, June 14. Guests dress in all white and mix and mingle. The club also hosts an unofficial after party on Saturday, June 15 after Pride Festival festivities wrap up on Calder Plaza.
June 15 – AFTERGLOW - Pride Festival After Party. Check out an after glow party at 20 Monroe Live featuring dancing, circuit music and live performances that all benefits Grand Rapids Pride Center immediately following Saturday's event.
June 16 – The Apartment Lounge will host its popular Pride Block Party on Sunday, June 16 at 2 PM. Last year the bar closed Sheldon Street and the event featured live entertainment and food and drink options along the street.
Apartment Lounge will also offer a special Rainbow Brite drink the entire month of June – it’s a layered fruity rainbow drink that you won’t want to miss.
June 21 – Love Wins on the Blue Bridge. This is an annual event celebrating the anniversary of Marriage Equality hosted by Tommy Allen. The event will highlight queer artists and there will be live entertainment, beverages and more
July 11 – Pride Night at the West Michigan Whitecaps. Proceeds will benefit the Pride Center, and tickets include a special custom baseball cap.
New Holland - The Knickerbocker has selected the Pride Center as the June community tap recipient. The Pride Center will receive a percentage of sales for one select beer throughout the entire month of June. HopCat is doing something similar with beer sale proceeds also benefiting the Pride Center.
With all of these amazing events taking place in and around downtown Grand Rapids, you can make a day trip to celebrate Pride with friends and family, or book a room in a local hotel and make a full weekend visit!