CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago officials called on residents to celebrate Mexican Independence Day responsibly as they try to avoid the out of hand gridlock of years past.
Chicago's Little Village neighborhood hosts one of the country's largest Mexican Independence Day celebrations, and for the first time ever it will be held on a Saturday to coincide with the actual holiday on Sept. 16. The neighborhood is already decked out in festive decorations, and Mexican flags are already flying from some vehicles 10 days before the actual holiday.
"We're expecting over 400,000 spectators so we know that the crowds will be big for sure," said Jennifer Aguilar, Little Village Chamber of Commerce.
Hosting the parade on the holiday itself is one way the city hopes to avoid some of the more chaotic celebrations from the last couple of years, which have resulted in thousands of people flocking downtown, creating gridlock, setting off fireworks, and leading to street closures as police seek to restore order.
"The call to everyone is to participate in the festivities. It is OK to display the Mexican flag, but just be aware that you can't do it in a way that may harm other persons. All the crazy things that happened is not the Mexican community. It's just a few persons and we don't want the entire Mexican community to be labeled," said Reyna Torres, Consul General of Mexico in Chicago.
The Mexican Consulate is among those partnering with the city to encourage people to celebrate responsibly, using their social media to both inform people of the fines they face for illegal driving, and of the myriad celebrations being planned not just in the city of Chicago but across the area. The hope is that by decentralizing the festivities, fewer people will come downtown.
"The Consulate is going to be participating in more than 15 celebrations all over the Chicagoland area. We will be everywhere performing the Grito," Torres said.
Meanwhile, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications said they are already working with CPD to plan for Mexican Independence weekend, releasing a statement saying in part, "Car caravans that create a threat to public safety will not be tolerated. We also remind everyone that drag racing and drifting are not only illegal, but dangerous. Anyone in violation of the ordinance will be held accountable."
Pilsen's Mexican Independence Day parade will kick off festivities in the city this coming Saturday. But for those looking to stick closer to home, there are also celebrations being planned everywhere from East Chicago, Indiana to Aurora, Joliet, Waukegan, and Cicero amongst many others.