Thousands celebrate Chicago's '90 Years of Excellence' at Bud Billiken Parade

CHICAGO (WLS) -- From the bands to the dancers, the Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood has something for everyone.

"The energy that you get when you come to the parade, you got to love it," said Marquita Williams, a Chicago resident who attended the Saturday event.

It's just one of the reasons the parade attracts thousands of people every August, for the past 90 years and counting.

EMBED More News Videos

WATCH: 90th Bud Billiken Parade (1 of 10)

Watch part 1 of the 90th Bud Billiken Parade

"I have been coming about 60 years," said Rita Gillespie, a Chicago resident. "I'm 64 and I have only missed a few."

The parade's mission is to celebrate African American culture and to empower the community. It's all built on the values and the legacy of the Chicago Defender newspaper.

"It stands for unity actually because everyone, they get along," Gillespie said. "We cook, we laugh, we dance, we listen to music."

The theme for this year's parade is "90 Years of Excellence."

For some like the Princesses to Queens Dance Team from Englewood, the Bud Billiken Parade is a time to show off talents of their neighborhood.

"It teaches them unity, it's teaching them sisterhood," said Dancer Semiko Haven.
The dancers practiced their routine for weeks.

Haven said the Princesses to Queens Dance Team doesn't have a facility to practice in at the moment. Instead, the team dances outside, when weather permits, Haven said.

"This is where I'm from," Haven said. "They basically wrote us off like we're not going to be anything. And we are going to prove them wrong."

The event is the largest African American parade in the country.

As children prepare to head back to school, the Billiken organization is focused on keeping them out of trouble and involved in programs. They also have scholarships and job placement.

Chicago resident Tyrese Strong said attending the parade gave him "a good feeling, because Chicago is more than just violence."
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.