Dancin’ In The Streets

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Dancin’ in the Streets (formerly Summerfest), an annual benefit event for the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, began in 1985. The idea for the first Summerfest ’85: Dancin’ in the Streets came about during discussions between Jeff Swindler, Tom Phillips, Buck Ryder, and David Bickoff. In 1985, Phyllips and Ryder suggested that Swindler host a “backyard luau” to “raise money for several friends who had AIDS.” After Swindler rejected this idea, the group moved forward with Bickoff’s suggestion that “some kind of street fair” be held near a local LGBT+ business. The group selected East 9th Street (between St. Clair and Lakeside Avenues) because that area had historically been “familiar to the gay community” as the former site of Traxx, the Vaults, and Water Street Dan’s. The first Summerfest event was organized as an independent benefit for the Health Issues Taskforce (later renamed the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland) and featured “dancing and other entertainment,” informational booths, a raffle, and a “commemoration ceremony” with an evening candlelight vigil in remembrance of LGBT+ friends, family, loved ones, and community members lost to HIV/AIDS. Though Summerfest’s primary purpose was to “raise money” for HIV/AIDS awareness and education, its secondary purpose — as a “chance for the community to come together to affirm themselves” — was equally “as important” to the festival’s organizers. The first Summerfest was attended by approximately 2,400 people and netted $9,000 for local HIV/AIDS causes.

In 1986, Summerfest’s organizers decided to keep the street fair going as an annual summer community event and formed an official partnership with the Health Issues Taskforce. From 1986 on, Summerfest: Dancin’ in the Streets functioned as a primary annual fundraiser for the Health Issues Taskforce/AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland. In 1987, ‘Summerfest’ was dropped from the event’s title (which later became known simply as Dancin’ in the Streets). The annual festival remained at its original West 9th Street location between 1985 and 1990. Dancin’ was relocated to Huron and Prospect Road in 1991 before moving back to West 9th Street between 1992 and 1993. In 1994, Dancin’ was again relocated to a new locating at Erieside Avenue where it remained through 1996. Between 1997 and 2000, Dancin’ moved to Mall “B”. In 2001, Dancin’ in the Streets moved indoors to the Tower City Amphitheater and expanded into a full weekend of events with the addition of the Aids Taskforce-sponsored ErieParty and pre-/post-event parties hosted by local LGBT+ venues. Dancin’ remained at the Tower Theater Amphitheater from 2001 to 2003 before relocating to the Scene Pavilion in 2004.

Having functioned as Dancin’s primary organizer since 1986, the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland decided that 2004’s event (aptly titled “The Last Dance”) would be the event’s final year following “several years of declining attendance.” The following year, however, John Katsaros, David Peifer, and Gregg Whitbeck united to save Dancin’ in the Streets with the “blessing of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland.” Katsaros, Peifer, and Whitbeck formed a nonprofit corporation to reorganize 2005’s annual Dancin’ in the Streets while returning the festival to its former “block party roots.” Between 2005 and 2010, Dancin’ the Streets moved to Clifton Boulevard between West 116th Street and West 117th Street (facing Katsaros’ Twist). In 2010, Dancin’ controversially came under the organizational control of Vision Video Productions’ Chris Rogers and George Honaker. After Vision Video Productions announced that the festival would be moved to Gordon Square in 2011, Katsaros and the AIDS Taskforce issued a contradictory statement affirming that the event would be “held on Clifton Boulevard as in previous years.” As a result, a “fight broke out on Facebook” between the dueling organizers. In the end, Dancin’ weekend 2011 proceeded at the Gordon Square location. To prevent further organizational conflicts, the AIDS Taskforce “[returned] to an active role” in organizing Dancin’ events after 2012. Dancin’ in the Streets moved back to Clifton Boulevard. During 2012 Dancin’, a “drunk driver ran the [event’s street barricades],” “injuring four people, two of whom [Mitchell Andelmo and Basil Bass] later died” from their injuries. A vigil was held for the victims at the site several days later. In 2014, Dancin’ in the Streets was held at Mall C as part of the 2014 Gay Games 9.

Additional information coming soon.


  • “A Letter of Thanks.” Gay People’s Chronicle. September 1985. Page 15.
  • AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland.
  • “Best Gay Event: Dancin’ In The Streets.” Scene. 2006.
  • Callender, Charles. “Summerfest Draws 2,400.” Gay People’s Chronicle. September 1985. Page 1, 8-9.
  • Forbes, Dora. “Summerfest ’85 on Tap.” Gay People’s Chronicle. August 1985. Page 10.
  • Glassman, Anthony. “A Really Good Time.” Gay People’s Chronicle. September 1, 2006. Page 1.
  • Glassman, Anthony. “A Generation of News: Many Changes Have Come in Twenty Years of Publishing This Newspaper.” Gay People’s Chronicle. February 4, 2005. Page 5.
  • Glassman, Anthony. “Dancin’ in the Streets is Back, and Back in the Streets, Too.” Gay People’s Chronicle. July 1, 2005. Page 3.
  • Glassman, Anthony. “Dancin’ Weekend Draws 3,000 Revelers.” Gay People’s Chronicle. August 1, 2003. Pages 1, 4.
  • Glassman, Anthony. “Glad to be Back on the Street.” Gay People’s Chronicle. September 2, 2005.
  • Glassman, Anthony. “Late-Afternoon Dancin’ Brings Crowds, Donations.” Gay People’s Chronicle. August 12, 2011.
  • Glassman, Anthony. “Lower Price Brings Bigger Crowd to Dancin’ in the Streets.” Gay People’s Chronicle. August 28, 2009. Pages 1, 11.
  • Glassman, Anthony. “Strollin’, Eatin’, Drinkin’, Joustin’, and, Oh Yeah, Dancin’ in the Streets.” Gay People’s Chronicle. August 31, 2007.
  • Glassman, Anthony. “Tragedy Strikes Dancin’ as Drunk Driver Kills 2 People.” Gay People’s Chronicle. August 10, 2012.
  • Haley, Zak. “Summerfest 86.” Gay People’s Chronicle. July 1986. Page 10.
  • Hurt, Stephen. “Businesses, Bars Help Dancin’.” Gay People’s Chronicle. September 1989. Page 8.
  • James, Rusty. “New Date for Dancin’ in the Streets.” Gay People’s Chronicle. August 1990. Page 4.
  • Lane, Lois. “Dancin’ In The Streets Festival to be Held on July 22.” Gay People’s Chronicle. July 1990. Page 3.
  • Price, Judy. “Dancin’ is Back Again This Year, on Clifton in August.” Gay People’s Chronicle. Pride Guide 2006. Page B-9.
  • Price, Judy. “What Do You Mean, ‘The Last Dance?’ The 20th Dancin’ in the Streets Will Be the Final One.” Gay People’s Chronicle. July 2004. Page 5.
  • Resnick, Eric. “Food Pantry Reaps $70,000 From Dancin’ in the Streets.” Gay People’s Chronicle. August 2, 2002. Page 1.
  • Rogers, Chris, and G. Honaker. “Dancing to Help When the Government Won’t.” Gay People’s Chronicle. August 13, 2010. Page 4.
  • Schneck, Ken. LGBTQ Cleveland. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2018. Page 36.
  • “Summerfest ’85.” Gay People’s Chronicle. September 1985. Page 8-9.
  • “Summerfest ’86.” Gay People’s Chronicle. July 1986. Page 3.
W 9th St between St. Clair and Lakeside Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113

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