As we gear up for another exciting pride month, it’s essential to look back at history to appreciate how far the LGBTQ+ community has come. Since its inception in 1970, the Chicago Pride Parade has witnessed immense growth, evolving from a small march to one of the largest Pride parades globally. This annual event has become an iconic symbol of love, acceptance, and support for LGBTQ+ rights, attracting millions of participants, spectators, and supporters.
The First Chicago Pride Parade
The origins of the Chicago Pride Parade can be traced back to the Stonewall riots in 1969, which sparked the global gay rights movement. Organized on June 27, 1970, the first Chicago Pride Parade started as a modest, yet purposeful march from Washington Square Park to the Water Tower, ultimately reaching the Civic Center. It was a defining moment for the LGBTQ+ community of Chicago, as, for the first time, people came together to advocate for their rights and visibility.
The Pride Parade Grows
Initially, the parade took place exclusively in the Lakeview East neighborhood. However, with increasing participation and support from the community, the parade route had to be expanded to accommodate the growing crowds. In recent years, the Chicago Pride Parade has extended its outreach to the Uptown neighborhood, beginning at the corner of Broadway and Montrose, and continuing through Belmont, Halsted, Broadway, and Lincoln Park.
Political Participation and Support
As more LGBTQ+ individuals took an active part in politics and used their resources for political action, politicians began taking notice of the community’s power. Both the Illinois Democratic and Republican parties have displayed strong representation in the Chicago Pride Parade, signifying the growing importance of LGBTQ+ rights as a nonpartisan issue.
Over the years, the Chicago Pride Parade has hosted numerous special guests and celebratory moments. In 2009, the parade marked its 40th anniversary, drawing over 500,000 spectators. A year later, the Chicago Blackhawks’ Brent Sopel and the Stanley Cup made an appearance, honoring the late Brendan Burke, the gay son of Maple Leafs’ GM Brian Burke.
In 2011, the parade continued to grow, with over 800,000 attendees and 250 entries. This massive turnout prompted a reorganization of the parade route for the following year. Since 2013, the Chicago Pride Parade has consistently attracted over one million attendees each year, making it one of the largest Pride parades worldwide.
Adding To the Celebration
In 2019, the 19th Annual Pre Parade Celebration, commonly known as Chicago’s two-day Pride Fest, took place. More than 100,000 people attended the festival, held on the weekend before the Pride Parade. This event occurs annually in Chicago’s North Halsted neighborhood and features numerous performers across three main stages.
Not only are the streets packed for Pride Fest, but many parties have sprung up leading up to the Pride Parade, making it a “pride week” inside of Pride Month.
Pride in the Park Begins
In 2019, the first Pride in the Park festival happens as the first official LGBTQ+ event ever held in world famous Grant Park. It expands the footprint of Pride celebrations in Chicago even further, bringing national talent alongside local performers to the heart of downtown Chicago. Pride in the Park is now on it’s 4th year at the time of this post.
The Chicago Pride Parade has come a long way since its modest beginnings in 1970. Today, it serves as an inspiring reminder of the resilience and strength of the LGBTQ+ community, highlighting the importance of unity and acceptance in the fight for equal rights. As we celebrate Pride Month and honor the progress made, it’s crucial to remember that the struggle for true equality is ongoing. Let us continue to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and support their fight for a more inclusive and just world.