The Big Gay Market to host biggest event yet this weekend at Alliant Energy Center

Photos supplied.

On June 15 and 16, The Big Gay Market (TBGM) will hold its Pride Market, where shoppers will be able to peruse goods from over 200 queer and LGBTQ+ ally vendors at the Alliant Energy Center.

Because this is the market’s biggest event yet, TBGM owners Ashley Shaw Adams and Ollie DiPietro approached the preparation process differently than they did previous iterations, which were held at the Wisconsin Rugby Complex in Cottage Grove. 

“The stakes are higher so the problems are also bigger,” Shaw-Adams said. “But that does mean that it feels more rewarding afterwards.”

While The Big Gay Market has historically drawn crowds as big as 1,200 attendees, Shaw-Adams is hoping that with the bigger venue, this month’s market will bring in a minimum of 10,000 people.

Finding ways to finance this market has been one of the biggest considerations during Shaw-Adams’ and DiPietro’s planning period. Back in November of 2023, TBGM launched a loan through Kiva, a zero-interest microloan crowdfunding platform that “expands financial access to help underserved communities thrive.”

Ollie DiPietro and Ashley Shaw Adams. Photo supplied.

TBGM was approved for a loan of $11,000, an amount that they were able to fund in a little under two weeks. Their campaign was endorsed by Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, an organization that provides underserved individuals with financial resources and business training. 

“​​It was raised super fast, and it was mostly people that were not from around here,” DiPietro recalled. “So that was really cool, because you have to raise the whole amount to get any of [the money].”

The funds raised from Kiva were put towards Alliant Energy Center’s $24,000 deposit. The remainder of the deposit was covered by vendor fees, which were set at a “competitive” rate of $300 for the whole weekend. 

“We’ve really been trying to keep it accessible,” Shaw-Adams explained. “We set up a two-part payment plan option for all vendors, which has also been helpful.”

A bulk of TBGM’s revenue has also come from sponsors whose goods and services might not be the best fit for the market, but still wanted to have a presence at the market. Sponsors for this event include queer realtor Asher Masino, UW Health, Our Lives Wisconsin, mental health practitioners, and more. 

Additional revenue from TBGM merchandise sales and their Patreon account will go to things that can support the event’s efficiency, like additional signage, and vendors’ comfort, like snacks and beverages.

Despite all of the new and bigger pressures of the event, Shaw-Adams emphasized that their vendors’ success remains at the heart of the event: “First and foremost we want our vendors to do well,” she said. “That’s our main focus.”

The Big Gay Pride Market will also feature local drag queens, a lobby table with Dana Pellebon, and resource tables hosted by TRAC Madison, OutReach, GSAFE, and more. Local LGBTQ sport groups, like the Madison Gay Hockey Association and The Minotaurs rugby team, will also have tables where attendees can sign up. A full schedule of events will be available later this week on TBGM’s website. There is no entry fee for visitors.

Learn more about 3 BIPOC vendors who will be present at this weekend’s market:

Art by Xizhou Xie creates decorative and functional artwork that can brighten any room. In addition to its regular collection, Art by Xizhou Xie will be featuring pride-themed jewelry, and 20% of proceeds from this collection will be donated to OutReach, a local nonprofit that provides Madison’s LGBTQ+ community with educational, social, and health services.

What Xie has to say on the importance of having diverse vendors at local markets: “Having a diverse range of artists at markets enables us to share and react to a wide variety of perspectives. It helps foster an intimate understanding of each other’s backgrounds. Creating a piece of artwork is an expression, but responding to the artwork is the second act that enriches this expression. The art fairs provide an opportunity for important and intimate exchanges that strengthen a community.”

las rubieras pottery offers functional, decorative, and whimsical pottery pieces that showcase glazed and carved designs. Erwin Lares, the owner of las rubieras pottery, is a hobby potter who is particularly enamored with the physicality of pottery and talking with others about the art form.

What Lares has to say about interacting with customers at art markets, a scene that he is new to: “I heard this line once that says, ‘people are like huge houses with tiny windows,’ so you rarely know what someone is thinking about when you interact with them. When you come to an event like this, you are giving the public a little peek into what’s inside your house. They’re a great opportunity to experience how other people see the world through their work.”

Rhubarb & Ice is a mother-daughter duo serving up a wide range of nourishing products, including their lavender lemonade, taco dope dip, and copper and brass jewelry. Together, Jaide-Monet Davis and Nathalie Francis strive to support womxn with an artistic flair, collaborate with community organizations, and give back to school-aged students.

What Davis and Francis have to say about how they hope their business inspires others: “Diversity goes beyond color; it encompasses all aspects of human experience. We hope to spread our energy to more youth, encouraging them to explore their entrepreneurial potential.”