Chicago Pride Parade watched by record 450,000
Wed, 06/27/2007 - 09:39 — wgolden
Copyright by The Chicago Free Press
An estimated 450,000 people lined the streets of Lakeview for the 38th Annual Pride Parade June 24.
The sky was slightly overcast as preparations for the parade began Sunday morning. Ice cream vendors pedaled their wagons and flag salesmen worked the Lakeview streets. As parade participants began assembling and organizing their entries along Halsted, early bird spectators staked out good spots or hit bars that opened early to get a head-start on the day’s revelry. When one group gathered for a picture, the photographer instructed, “Everyone say, ‘Daniel’s got a nice bulge.’”
As seems to be the case every year, the overcast skies and cool breezes dissipated by the time the parade stepped off at noon.
The parade had 250 registered entries, with participants ranging from local bars and athletic organizations to oil companies and politicians.
This year, besides the usual message about the pride GLBTs have in their community, the parade also carried the message that businesses, organizations and politicians are reaching out to them. One float put it succinctly: “Don’t just be gay—buy gay.” The float that won the award for best use of the pride theme went to BP, for example.
Water Reclamation District Commissioner Debra Shore said it was important to march in the parade so she could thank the community for the support she has enjoyed since her candidacy last year.
“As an openly gay (politician), it’s important for me to be here,” Shore said. “My office is relatively obscure. Last year people read my banner that said ‘Water Reclamation District Commissioner’ and yelled out, ‘What’s that?’ This year my banner says, ‘Thank you.’”
Shore marched with Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd), who was participating in his first Pride Parade. He said he saw taking part as letting his constituents know he believed the parade was for everyone in the community “being visible and being about human rights.”
Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) said the biggest change he’s seen is that “it’s become a festival for everyone.”
Pointing to the number of straight people and traditional families watching along the parade route, Harris added that Pride “shows that people all over the region are accepting of our rights.”
John Cepek, national president of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said he also was impressed “by the number of straight people I know up and down the streets.”
PFLAG’s entry always gets a warm reception each year, which gratifies Cepek.
“It’s one thing for families to be privately affirming, but this is one day where they can come out and dance in the streets,” he said.
Carlos Castillon, executive director for the Association of Latino Men for Action, said members often pointed to their family members as their reason for being in the parade.
He added that ALMA tries to educate the Latino community about the GLBTs who are their friends and family, and the Pride Parade is a particularly visible means to do so.
“One way to reach out to our families is to be seen on TV being happy and proud of ourselves,” Castillon said.
Given the large turnout Sunday, the only people along the route who seemed to have plenty of room to move about freely were the anti-gay protestors at the parade’s end. Once again ensconced behind barricades on Diversey, the protestors this year could be counted on just two hands.
Parade participants generally ignored the anti-gay epitaphs the fundamentalist spokesman yelled into his bullhorn, while others occasionally danced along with his rhythmic cries of “shame, shame, shame.”