Charting the history of Chicago drag, Illinois Dems’ push for abortion protections and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is about an eight-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Since the 1890s, drag has been a fixture of Chicago’s nightlife and entertainment scene. The legacy of diversity, experimentation and community carries on today.

Photos courtesy Gerber/Hart Library & Archives

Good afternoon, Chicago. ✶

As I’m sure you know, we are well into tourist season here in Chicago.

Downtown, we’ve got families running around Navy Pier, folks wandering down the Mag Mile, wildly long wait times at Lou Malnati’s in the Wrigley Building for deep dish — just people from all over looking to enjoy a little summertime Chicago.

But the thing is, a lot of those “touristy” things are actually very fun. Any time someone visits me from out of town, I’m taking them to The Bean, or hopping into the Art Institute, or oohing and aahing on an architecture boat tour in the summer.

That’s kind of the takeaway from a list we recently published that breaks down 10 great things to do in Chicago for the first time or 100th.

I hope you find some time to be a tourist in your own city this summer. Now here are the stories you need to know this afternoon.

⏱️: A 7-minute read

— Matt Moore, newsletter reporter (@MattKenMoore)


Charting the history of drag performance in Chicago

It’s a Chicago thing: Chicago has a vibrant drag scene. On any day of the week, you can catch drag performances at venues across the city. Clubs like Roscoe’s, Berlin and La Cueva all host popular evening events, and the Walnut Room and Furama are just two venues that host some of the city’s celebrated drag brunches. The history of drag in Chicago is known to go all the way back to the late 1890s, at gathering places like Dill Pickle Club and political fundraisers for the city’s 1st Ward.

How we got here: There are a few things that have set the Chicago drag scene apart from the very beginning, according to James and Kurt Conley, two experts my colleagues at WBEZ’s Curious City spoke with. One is the diversity of the scene. Not just in terms of the performers, but also who came to see them. Another factor is the DIY nature of Chicago’s scene, compared to the more theatrical drag scene of NYC, James Conley said. And third, there’s the sheer variety and abundance of types of performances happening in the city — from the racial, ethnic and gender identities of the performers to the styles of drag they perform, including their roles as social activists in their communities.

Key quote: “I’ve been in a lot of different drag scenes, but nothing that I’ve seen compares to Chicago as far as the amount of entertainers that we have and the diversity that we have,” said Miss Toto, a drag performer in Chicago. “You can get a drag king, drag queen, anything in between.”




An abortion rights advocate holds a sign in front of abortion rights opponents during a Defend Abortion Access rally at Daley Plaza in 2021.

Pat Nabong /Sun-Times file



The I&M Canal Trail stretches 13 miles.

Dale Bowman

If you’re looking to take a hike, and a little break from the city, consider stepping on the I&M Canal Trail, with access points about an hour outside of downtown in Will County.

The trail is part of the Will County Triple Crown Challenge the forest preserve district there is holding, which invites folks to hike the three longest Will County trails — the 22-mile Wauponsee Glacial Trail, 14 miles of the Old Plank Road Trail and 13 miles of the I&M Canal State Trail. If you can hike all 49 miles before June 30, you get a bottle sling cooler, the Forest Preserve District of Will County says.

Our outdoors columnist Dale Bowman hit the I&M Canal Trail Monday, starting at McKinley Woods in Channahon, he explains in his latest column.

Stepping on the mostly limestone trail through woodland, Dale encountered no shortage of wildlife, including chipmunks and deer, a Baltimore Oriole and red-winged blackbirds — and much more.

At times the trail goes over a narrow strip of land between the canal and the Des Plaines River. Other times the landscapes sprawl out.

Dale says some of his favorite moments from his roughly six-hour hike were seeing a boy smile when he found a watersnake while picking mulberries with his grandparents, and spotting a doe by the canal drinking within a couple hundred yards of Interstate 55.

📍I&M Canal State Trail, access points include Joliet, Lockport and Romeoville




Taylor and Maya Mason are the owners of the recently opened Taylor’s Tacos in Little Italy. The local community invested more than $50,000 to help the couple open the eatery.

Samantha Callender/WBEZ

Taylor’s Tacos building community, one delicious taco at a time

In a recent feature for WBEZ, my colleague Samantha Callender spoke with Taylor and Maya Mason, owners of the recently opened Taylor’s Tacos.

Tacos create community — that’s the sentiment the Masons maintain with their Black queer, woman-owned taco shop in Little Italy.

Extra-juicy chicken and sweet poppin’ potato tacos (available with their famous pickled red cabbage and secret salsa), mac-nificent lettuce wraps and eloTay street corn are a few of the signature dishes available daily.

The road to opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant of their own has been long, but the Masons credit relentless community support that invested more than $50,000 to aid the couple in the opening of Taylor’s Tacos in May.

“It’s been one of the hardest and most difficult things we’ve ever done, but it’s also been the most beautiful thing we’ve ever done,” Taylor Mason said. “I’m literally living my dream.”

📍Taylor’s Tacos, 1512 W. Taylor St.



Where in the city can you still go for an “old-school Chicago” experience? Explain your choice.

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Editor: Satchel Price

Newsletter reporter: Matt Moore

Copy editor: Angie Myers

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