BOYSTOWN — In the height of its fourth decade on North Halsted Street, Market Days is back this weekend with the fiercest lineup yet of drag queens, DJs and some of Lakeview's best eats.
One of the city's grandest street festivals kicks off Saturday on the main Boystown strip from Addison to Belmont. And from start to finish, the two days of entertainment and bar specials guarantee something for every RuPaul fan, every self-proclaimed diva and every shade of the rainbow in between.
More than 300,000 people are expected to attend.
And while the past 35 years of Market Days have been great, there are countless reasons to believe this will be the best year yet for the fest.
Some of the best shows aren't even part of the official fest:
You might have heard of the legendary Boystown bars, and Market Days is one occasion where they really get to strut their stuff.
The can't-miss show of the weekend is Market Days Mayhem at Roscoe's Tavern, 3356 N. Halsted St., where Willam, Peppermint, Tatianna and Alyssa Edwards will perform after an opening DJ set with Pearl starting at 4 p.m. Saturday.
The highly successful "RuPaul's Drag Race" alums and prominent Chicago drag queens will begin performing at 5 p.m., followed by a $40 outdoor photo line. Roscoe's will have a $15 cover starting at 3 p.m.
But the party continues Sunday with The Only Detox, Katya, Bob the Drag Queen, Mariah Balenciaga and Roxxxy Andrews.
Enjoy rosé popsiclces and cocktails at Elixir Lounge, 3452 N. Halsted St., during the #RoséImGay after party that lasts until 5 a.m. Kit Kat Lounge will have unlimited mimosas and Bloody Marys for $14.95 during a divalicious brunch Saturday,
Looking for a party with no cover? Sidetrack Bar, 3349 N. Halsted St., will open early at 11 a.m., and the Effen Vodka and Jose Cuervo flow until 2 a.m.
But the fest line-up is pretty fab, too:
Let's not discount the acts coming to the five actual Market Days stages. "America's Got Talent" contestant and Rococo-styled rock star Prince Poppycock will bring his one-of-a-kind act to the Bud Light north stage at 3:45 p.m. Saturday.
Transgender rapper KC Ortiz will perform at 2 p.m. Saturday on the Bud Light south stage, while disco queen Linda Clifford will sing on the north stage at 7:45 p.m. Saturday. Catch Chicago's own JC Brooks at 4 p.m. Sunday on the Nissan stage at Roscoe Street.
For those looking to get down, the dance stage at Cornelia Avenue will feature DJ jams to rouse up any crowd, and street festival favorites 16 Candles and Wedding Banned are also set to perform.
The New Orleans "Queen of Bounce" Big Freedia will perform at 3:15 p.m. Sunday on the north stage, followed by cover band Rod Tuffcurls and the Bench Press at 6:15 p.m. and Prince tribute band The Purple Xperience at 8:35 p.m.
Tribute bands like Don't Speak, Catfight and Girl Power Night will celebrate the best girl power hits from bands like No Doubt, the Spice Girls and Beyonce.
Find the full schedule here.
Festival swag includes hand-held fans just begging to be waved:
Every sassy festival-goer's outfit will be incomplete without a snap and flutter from the official Market Days fan. While the black fan with the dazzling Market Days design will set you back $30, can you really afford the humiliation of being the only one without such a sturdy fan to display as you sashay away?
Find the fans at the Norhalsted Market Days booth at Halsted and Addison while supplies last.
The weather will be gorgeous:
Summer festivals always run the risk of being rained out, or of leaving fans panting in the unforgiving Chicago sun. But the National Weather Service is predicting mostly sunny skies and highs of 73 degrees both Saturday and Sunday, with lows around 64 degrees both nights.
Your donation helps keep Boystown safe, beautiful and fun:
The suggested $10 donation for entry goes to Northalsted Business Alliance, the chamber that oversees street cleaning, private security and other improvements in Boystown.
The chamber spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on attracting customers to the corridor and enhancing it with street banners and a lot of street sweeping (particularly after the Pride Parade), while also paying for private security to patrol during major summer events like Market Days itself.
You can learn a lot about staying healthy:
Howard Brown will host a health village in the parking lot of 3245 N. Halsted St. from noon-6 p.m. on both days of the fest. There will be on-site HIV screenings, meningitis vaccinations and referrals for transgender healthcare, PrEP and more.
Howard Brown goes all out for the annual addition to the festival, with a condom bar, "Ask a Doctor" tent, giveaways, free doughnuts and a photo booth.
The #PrEP4Love campaign will also have a photo booth, which will give fest-goers a chance to learn more about the pill that can protect against HIV.
The vendors are just fantastic:
From tropical drinks served in pineapples to profanity-ridden magnets featuring watercolor sketches of wild animals, six blocks of vendors promise a fascinating walk down Halsted Street if nothing else.
Market Days, along with the Pride Parade and Pride Fest, provide a chance to see Boystown filled with life and exuberance. Fest-goers are decked out in their greatest, weirdest and most glamorous outfits to the point where the crowd becomes part of the show itself.
The fest runs from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and will take place rain or shine.