Navy Pier festivities, mass gay wedding held ahead of Pride Parade

Evelyn Holmes Image
Sunday, June 26, 2016
The Pride Parade kicks off at noon Sunday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A day before 1 million people line Chicago streets for the annual Pride Parade, festivities kicked off at Navy Pier where dozens of same-sex couples were married on Saturday.

The Lakeside Pride Marching Band got the celebration started in the afternoon with a parade down the dock as Navy Pier showed off its pride with rainbow flags as part of the first-ever Navy Pier Pride 2016 celebration.

"I think today is all about love and happiness and acceptance," said Lauren Staten.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner stopped by and asked that those who died in the Orlando shooting last week not be forgotten.

"We stand for justice, human rights. We stand for human dignity, equal opportunity and equal access," Rauner said.

The 47th annual Pride Parade will be held Sunday on the city's North Side.

However, organizers for the Navy Pier event said their event is the city's first LGBT celebration of its kind held outside the Lakeview neighborhood. The event is also one of the initial projects of Navy Pier's new Arts and Discovery programming initiative which looks to bring new artistic, cultural and community events to the city's largest tourist attraction.

"You'll see the wheel lit up in a rainbow," said Jen Kramer, director of Navy Pier entertainment and special events.

The wedding of dozens of same-sex couples could also be Chicago's largest wedding.

The celebration also included an all-day display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Fifteen panels with local ties were highlighted.

"Good to see cities, people, communities coming together and doing stuff like this," said Duwane Reynolds. "It makes me feel great. It makes me feel safe."

"What happened in Orlando was very hurtful," said Freddie Dewitt. "Coming here and seeing the support, it is a good feeling."

John Hicky, of the local chapter of Parents and Family of Lesbians and Gays, said it's all a part of encouraging and supporting tolerance and inclusion.

"We're trying to make sure that people understand there are gay, bisexual, transgender people everywhere," Hicky said.

The Pride Parade kicks off at noon Sunday at Montrose and continues down Broadway, then turning onto Halsted. From there, it goes east on Belmont before turning back onto Broadway and ending up on Diversey in Lincoln Park.