Thousands turn out for Bud Billiken Parade

August 13, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The parade stepped off at Martin Luther King Drive Saturday morning. While the event is recognized as a day to encourage kids to better themselves through the use of education, it also celebrates the importance of family and community.

For 10-year-old South Sider Melik Baker and thousands of other parade-goers, the 82nd annual Bud Billiken parade is a sign that summer is almost over.

"I like all the drill teams and how people show their talents," Baker said.

"It's nice for the kids. It's really important for the kids. I love it," said parade-goer Hortence Flowers.

The Jesse White Tumblers were among the dozens of entertainers on hand for the parade, which had a theme of education.

"This is all about making sure our kids start the school year right and finish the school year right," said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who served as the parade's Grand Marshal.

Also at the parade was newly-installed Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard who talked about the importance of classroom attendance: "You know, attendance brings money to the district -- about $600 million comes to Chicago because of kids' attendance. So, the first day is important and everyday is important."

The parade's king and queen and their court helped lead the festivities down South King Drive. The event also featured Disney's first African-American princess, Princess Tiana; the ABC7 float with several station personalities; and Chicago native R&B recording artist R. Kelly, who was the honorary Grand Marshal.

"I would sit on the curb and watch it go past on 40th and King Drive every single year, faithfully," R. Kelly said of the Bud Billiken Parade.

While the South Shore drill team thrilled crowds, community groups and others pleaded for the gang and gun violence that plagues the city to end.

"A lot of people are dying nowadays, especially in a neighbhorhood like this. What we do is go out and talk to people and tell them what they can do better," said Joshua Lang with the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative.

For the first time, the Bud Billiken Parade included a gospel festival, which featured a tribute to the late gospel great Albertina Walker.

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