Pride Parade start moves north, earlier

October 5, 2011 12:42:27 PM PDT
Chicago's Gay Pride Parade has become one of the biggest parades in the city. And its growth is reportedly the reason for major changes.

City officials say they believe the route was becoming a public safety concern.

The Gay Pride Parade started in Chicago 43 years ago. In its infancy it was small. Primarily, the gay community lined the route.

But in 2011, 800,000 people showed up, double the number from the previous year.

"Having the parade early and by lengthening the parade route, we think will help. Other cities have had the same problem, and they've made it earlier and lengthened the parade routes, and it seems to work," said Richard Pfeiffer, Gay Pride Parade coordinator. "Any time change comes along for some people, it will be hard. We think in the long run it will be good. We just tell people to give it a chance."

The parade will still be held on the last Sunday in June, but it will start at 10 a.m. instead of noon to curb drinking. The number of parade entries will be dwindled from 250 to 200 to shorten the duration of the parade. And the route will be longer by five blocks, going from 17 to 22, designed to stagger the crowd.

"The parade has actually become so successful, almost doubling in size over the last three or four years, that we need to do some things to make sure that it maintains the neighborhood parade, neighborhood feel," said Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th Ward.

The changes to the parade have been met with some mixed reaction among people who live along the route and who have attended in the past.

"It's very lively, but that's just the spirit of it, so I think that people that come and people that live in the neighborhood sort of need to expect that," said neighbor Michaela Haas.

"I think it definitely is a public safety issue. But I don't think starting the parade earlier is going to stop people from drinking. I think it's just going to get them to start drinking earlier," said neighbor George Pudlo.

The starting point will be moved to Montrose and Broadway and go south on Broadway to Halsted and then down Halsted to Belmont. It will end at Diversey and Cannon. The parade used to start at Belmont and Halsted, go north and take a u-turn at Broadway and Halsted, continuing south on Broadway.

Tunney, Chicago's first openly gay alderman, said he supports all the changes after listening to area complaints. He said that perhaps the Gay Pride Parade became a victim of its own success because of the large crowds.

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