Kalamazoo Pride

Kalamazoo Explodes with Art and Pride this June


No place in Michigan is more fun to say than Kalamazoo, and no place is more fun to celebrate Pride and discover art in early June. This lovely little city of about 73,000 in Southwest Michigan, just an hour south of Grand Rapids and 45 minutes from the gorgeous shores of Lake Michigan, is chock-full of excellent craft breweries, fascinating museums, and a number of LGBTQ+ welcoming businesses that are eager to introduce you to Kalamazoo's charms.

And no time is better to experience Kalamazoo – often just "Kzoo" to locals – than early June, when art and Pride combine to create a weekend of joyous and cultural celebration.

It's all part of Kalamazoo's annual JumpstART Weekend, the official local kickoff to summer fun with a creative flair. Taking place the weekend of June 7 to 9 across downtown Kalamazoo, JumpstART combines art, food, music, and fun in an entirely outdoor setting, encompassing a number of events the local community has come to know and love, including Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts Fair, Art on the Mall, the Do-Dah Parade, Kalamazoo Pride, and much more.

Kalamazoo Pride

Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts Fair, shortened by locals to the KIA Arts Fair, is the second longest-running arts fair in America, and takes place at the heart of downtown in Bronson Park on Friday and Saturday. More than a hundred jury-selected fine artists and artisans from across Michigan and the nation convene in Kalamazoo for the unique two-day shopping experience, where hand-crafted jewelry, ceramics, paintings, sculptures, glassware, leatherware, woodworks, photography, and much more are on display and on sale. Aside from the shopping, the free event includes music, a beer garden, and food trucks all weekend long, and KIA will be open for free admission on Friday and Saturday.

Also taking place on Friday and Saturday (June 7 and 8) is Art on the Mall, which for more than 35 years has showcased the work of local and regional artists right on the outdoor walking mall in downtown Kalamazoo. Original paintings, jewelry, pottery, sculptures, and garden art from more than 60 artists will be accompanied by art demonstrations, as well as crowd-pleasing live entertainment.

A couple at Kalamazoo Pride

For the LGBTQ+ community and their allies, June 7 and 8 will also bring Kalamazoo Pride, where more than 8,000 people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, and racial identities from across Southwest Michigan and beyond will come together for a two-day festival at Kalamazoo's Arcadia Creek Festival Place. Expect excellent music, stellar drag performances, a wide range of exhibitors and food options, plenty of dancing, and loads of proud fun, all organized by OutFront Kalamazoo, the city's LGBTQ+ social services organization.

Saturday, June 8 will see the return of Kalamazoo's lighthearted Do-Dah Parade, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year as a unique and unstuffy local parody parade.

Sunday, June 9 will kick off the summertime Concerts in the Park series in Bronson Park, with a free live concert by the Kalamazoo Concert Band.

Kalamazoo Pride Booth

Throughout JumpstART Weekend, or anytime of the year, the Kalamazoo area's interesting array of LGBTQ+-owned and -friendly businesses is also ready and waiting to welcome you. Museums and attractions include the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, the 90-acre Gilmore Car Museum, the more than 1,500-acre Kalamazoo Nature Center, the Air Zoo aerospace and science museum, the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, the Black Arts and Cultural Center, and the previously-mentioned Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

Kalamazoo's myriad of queer-friendly cultural attractions include the Farmer's Alley Theatre, the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, Queer Theatre Kalamazoo, the Dormouse Theatre, the Crawlspace Comedy Theatre, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, the Fire Arts Collaborative, the Kalamazoo State Theater, Miller Auditorium, the Airway Fun Center, Escapology, Art Bayou, and the Revel & Roll West entertainment hub.

Among the many LGBTQ+ owned and friendly shops in town are this is a book store & Bookbug and Drue Salon.

Kalamazoo's options for queer-friendly gathering and dining are plentiful, including Bell's Eccentric Cafe, Brewery Outre, Millennium Restaurant Group, Caffe Casa, Stamped Robin/Next Door Wine Store, One Well Brewing, and many more around the county.

And, of course, no visit to Kalamazoo would be complete with a visit to Club Vortex, Kalamazoo's LGBTQ+ night club.

So, come to Kalamazoo this June... and see what all the fun is about!

by Dale Pauly

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