CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Downtown streets were closed off for the 8th annual C-U Pride and Parade, but it’s more than just costumes and colors. The Illinois director of tourism says LGBTQ events are a major part of tourism in the state.
The streets were flooded with people and the colors of the rainbow.
“Gay pride. It’s about celebration and unity and community and coming together in a whole and having pride all day every single day. “
There were flags, balloons and lots of laughter. This is the C-U Pride and Parade.
“People get together and celebrate who they are and it’s great to get together and to just see all the love.”
Signs of support for the LGBTQ community are more than just words on paper. It’s in the smiles and hugs of the people who pass by.
“We want to make sure that people feel welcome. We welcome everyone no matter your race, color your gender identity.”
That’s the goal for many people at the parade, and it’s also a priority for the state of Illinois. This summer the Illinois Department of Tourism launched a new campaign focused on LGBTQ events and travel.
“Internationally, visitors want to travel to major cities but they also want to take a road trip, get in a car and experience the real America. Experience something unique and authentic.”
That brings them here to areas like Champaign County.
“Tourism in the industry is a major economic driver in the state. It’s the third largest employer in the state of Illinois behind manufacturing and agriculture.”
It’s a money maker, and events like these bring in the big bucks.
“For every dollar we have spent in terms of LGBTQ travel, it’s returned nearly 14 dollars in hotel/motel revenue to the state.”
But for the people at the Pride festival, it’s more than dollars and cents.
‘It shows the diverse community that Champaign-Urbana is and how it takes all kids of people to live in this world.”
The people at the parade say it’s not just about acceptance and tolerance; it’s about love and friendship.