As I mentioned in one of my past articles: what’s with all the hate? The events that took place during and after the 2011 Pride Parade not only left the city wondering what went wrong, but may have changed the pride parade that we have known for decades. From drunken debauchery to assault to vandalism, a parade that is meant to celebrate and embrace our culture turned into an embarrassing example of what happens when we forget the meaning behind this historic act of solidarity. The importance of the cause disappears during the hours of sitting in the sun, drinking and watching boys in their briefs float down Halsted.
In response to last year’s chaos, the city has made some adjustments to the parade’s start time, the route it will follow and the number of floats representing various organizations and political figures. Next year, the route will move in a single direction, no longer looping Broadway, and will be lengthened 5 blocks. In addition, the start time will be pushed back two hours to 10:00am and will cut floats by 50 in order to ensure a shorter duration.
It would not be responsible for the city to ignore the results of last year’s poorly organized parade which was only made more chaotic by a record-breaking crowd of over 750,000 people. People were injured, property was damaged and the city had to respond to ensure the parade could continue for years to come. I am not sure about the fate of gay pride, but Irish Pride and the Southside parade were simply cancelled after years of these instances without addressing the problems. Without having to cancel the parade, and encouraging the participation of these large crowds, the city settled on this solution.
The new start time was decided as a deterrent to massive amounts of alcohol consumption. Now let me tell you, a majority of us have already started drinking at this point, even if the parade starts at noon. Instead of chugging your mimosas, why not enjoy your favorite at the parade? Who knows, maybe this year everyone will remember it! I know it seems early, but get over it- its 10:00am. It’s once a year, and we all know the LGBT’s will stubbornly wake up. Still salty? Well, maybe this way the drunken frat boys who come to the parade like it’s a circus will simply sleep through, giving us the ability to walk through the crowd without some d-bag asking me to make out with my friend, or stating that my girlfriend is too hot to be gay. Just sayin’.
The new start time may not really affect many of us, but the revised route is something that many of us will protest. The main drag of Halsted won’t be affected, but let’s be honest, that area is for the rookies and the tourists. Every year, all the queer women are found in the parking lot of Treasure Island on Broadway, a skip away from Joy’s, a quick escape and more, ladies. This year, that entire diagonal of Broadway from Grace to Belmont will be bypassed, leaving our traditions to memory. The lengthening of the parade is much needed to accommodate the increasing crowds, but completely changing the path for traffic reasons? Not only will the crowd simply be more spread out and disjointed (Montrose and Diversey are NOT close) but there will be a certain community feeling that is lost.
While changes must be made to the structure of the parade to ensure safety, these changes may change the whole feeling of Pride in Chicago. The triangle of Broadway, Halsted and Belmont is the closest we get to having a Pride festival, something that I think we lack as a large city to start with.
Changing the time and shortening the event are both reasonable strategies for minimizing the damages, but what hasn’t been addressed is the lack of security. Maybe if the city was more prepared, then some of these events wouldn’t have taken place. The traffic flow won’t improve by eliminating the most calm and traditional part of the parade, because it is still a parade. On city streets. In Chicago. So maybe instead of trying to side-step the problems by spreading us out, they should address the lack of official security or the way they respond to such instances of crowd control.
Some change is good. The addition of blocks will help the overcrowding that occurred last year, and the early start time will give us a better excuse to pre-game and head to Backlot Bash. But some change makes little sense, especially with the well-known traditions and history it holds. Things may change after an experimental year, but for now it is time to make new memories.
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Lauren was born and raised in South Minneapolis and like many other innocent midwesterners got sucked into the black hole of Chicago politics 4 years ago. As the LGBT Coordinator for the Gery Chico for Mayor Campaign she attempted to take on the entire city and hasn’t looked back since. Now working for a communications firm, she spends her extra time running around with cases of PBR playing in different sports leagues, hosting couchsurfers from all over the place, and deciding how she is going to change the world. A simple lady at her core, she has decided that the first person to send her an edible arrangement must be the one.