Nearly 1 million people expected to attend weekend festivals, Pride Parade

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Packed with street festivals, music festivals and Chicago's Pride Parade, the city is putting into practice the safety plan they've spent months preparing as hundreds of thousands of weekend revelers flock to Chicago.

The Pride Parade is one of the city's biggest events, and paired with all of the other weekend festivities close to 1 million people are expected to pack city streets. And as with all large-scale events, that raises security concerns.

"The city plans for this constantly throughout the year," said Rich Guidice, First Deputy, Office of Emergency Management and Communication.

Chicago will be bursting with visitors and residents out on the streets as the NHL draft, summer festivals and Chicago Pride all coincide. That means the OEMC will have its hands full.

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Nearly a million people are expected to come to Chicago for festivals, including the Pride Parade, this weekend.

"We have numerous resources on the ground; public safety resources as well as infrastructure resources," Guidice said.

Guidice said the office plans months in advance for events like these, especially Pride which is expected to impact 1 million people in the city.

"It's celebrating love, it's celebrating diversity, it's celebrating everything that - you know, the world we live in now, it feels like just a day to, just, escape and be yourself and be proud of who you are," said Mark Nardone, resident.

There was rhythm on the streets and celebration in the air Friday night. The Center on Halsted hosted the first of many Pride Weekend parties.

"You kind of feel it in the atmosphere, so people are super excited. Everybody's just happy, smiling. It's really cool," said Cedrita Demus, attendee.
Neighborhood pride will also be in large supply. Friday, the Old St. Pat's World's Largest Block Party is back. The two-day event returned to its original location at the church, and features local food and music.

"Our parishioners, members and members of the community said 'We want it back.' The shadow of Old St. Pat's. that's where the block party belongs, and we're really excited to be bringing it back this year," said Brian Comer, Old St. Pat's Volunteer Coordinator.

But OEMC said with the fun comes a level of responsibility.

"Be cognizant of your surroundings, in large crowds you always have to know what's around you. Also this is the same message: if you see something, say something," Guidice said.

Recent attacks in Europe have gotten the city's attention and crowds leaving an event are now as much of a focus as those entering.

"We're concerned about people, as the crowd is leaving, about people with explosive devices in their backpacks or people getting into an area like that with a weapon," said Captain Michael Pigott, Chicago Police Department.

Law enforcement will be cracking down at all events, and all Pride Parade marchers have been warned no alcohol is permitted on the route. Anyone caught with alcohol will be fined $1,000.
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