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One Million Chicago Residents Show Out for Pride Parade

One Million Chicago Residents Show Out for Pride Parade

chicago pride parade

Joy and struggle are not mutually exclusive. Chicago’s annual pride parade, the largest in the Midwest, exemplifies this ultimate truth. Since Chicago’s first pride parade in 1970, the celebration has become bigger and better each year. When planning for the 2024 parade, organizers shortened the route and admitted fewer floats. They wanted to scale back for safety, but Chicago residents are incapable of scaling back on the festivities. Any difference in size was made up by the one million people who attended and the energy that made the parade — celebrating the LGBTQ+ community and allies and radiating joy and pride throughout.

chicago pride parade

The parade began at North Broadway Street and West Sheridan Road, leading along Broadway to North Halsted Street, continuing along West Belmont Avenue to Broadway, and concluding in West Diversey and North Cannon Drive. 

“I was personally glad to hear the parade route was shortened. That and the lovely weather made the parade a pleasant stroll and not a grueling slog,” said Anna Bennet, who goes by Annx in drag. Annx walked in the parade with My Buddy’s, a Chicago venue that hosts their brand new show Purse First, which features drag kings and queens “rocking their best props and accessories… with a side of sabotage from their unhinged host.”

The streets were unyieldingly festive, covered in rainbow beads, glitter and balloons as Chappell Roan blared through speakers. Mayor Brandon Johnson waved a Chicago pride flag, walking side by side with Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, who twirled a baton. Drag queens danced on a Chicago Fire Department truck, and Benny the Bull wore a pride flag as a cape. 

chicago pride parade

“It was certainly an exhilarating experience!” Annx said of their promenade through the parade. “As a performer, I’m used to being in front of crowds, but walking in the parade is a whole different animal. The energy was just electric. Even though it sapped my social battery, it absolutely recharged me as a queer person. My girlfriend and I made a point to shout, ‘Let’s go, lesbians!’ every time we spotted some sapphics or a lesbian flag in the crowd, and the energy we got back was unreal. The best part was seeing queer folks of all ages, sizes, colors, and orientations all gathered, cheering and smiling and just happy to be there.”

This year’s theme was “Pride is Power.” Pride is about inclusivity and acceptance — the campier and more outrageous, the better. But while parades are meant to indulge in humor and frivolity, they are also a powerful forum for bringing awareness to issues like trans rights, healthcare equality, and homelessness among LGBTQ+ youth. 

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The pride parade has reached mainstream status, but that has not always been the case. In the 1970s, following the Stonewall riots in NYC, the Chicago Gay Liberation group assembled the parade as a political statement to riot for the end of bigotry and demand LGBTQ+ visibility. During the HIV/Aids epidemic in the 80s, the parade extended beyond a political statement and became a platform for education and communal support. They mourned, yet they also celebrated as a unified force. Leading to the 20th century, increased societal acceptance meant increased involvement from mainstream entities like business and governmental forces. 

chicago pride parade

This past weekend, Benny the Bull in a Pride cape and drag queens voguing to the beat of fire alarms displayed how much Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community has persevered since the first parade in the 1970s – and how far there is to go.

For Annx, “Queer nightlife in Chicago is amazing and is always improving as far as representation goes, but being out in the sunlight getting to be my drag-king self… you don’t get to see many elders or kids in the club, so that was really something special. It was a beautiful reminder that in those elders, I could see my queer future, and maybe those kids were able to see their queer future in me.” As instruments of Chicago pride, we celebrate the battles the LGBTQ+ community has won and instill hope in one another that together, we will win the battles to come.

child marches in parade
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