Chicago Pride Parade steps off in Lakeview – Chicago Tribune

Thousands of spectators marched Sunday through Lakeview for Chicago’s 53rd annual Pride Parade.

The parade officially began at 11 a.m., but organizers and onlookers gathered hours beforehand to set up floats and prepare for the massive event.

This year’s theme is “Pride is Power,” highlighting the role the parade has played in advocating for the LGBTQ+ community in Chicago and the region, according to a press release from the parade’s organizers.

“Now is the time to embrace the power of Pride,” said parade co-coordinator Ron Thomas in a March press release. “Our unified voice empowers us to keep our movement moving forward.”

The first Pride Parade in Chicago was held in 1970, on the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York. Today, Chicago’s annual parade is the largest in the Midwest,. This year’s grand marshals are Fortune Feimster and Jax Smith; Art Johnston and José Pepe Peña; and Myles and Precious Brady-Davis.

In March, Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration announced that this year’s parade would be downsized to maintain safety and ensure police presence. The city said the parade would be limited to 125 groups, and the start time would be pushed up to 11 a.m.

The decision was met with backlash, however, from the mayor’s advisory council on LGBTQ+ issues and other community organizations. Following pushback from the advisory council and other groups, Johnson increased the number of groups to 150, a nearly 25% decrease from last year.

This year’s route is also different from previous years, according to the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications. It will begin a few blocks south of its usual starting point, at Sheridan Road and Broadway in Lakeview, and proceed south on Halsted Street, east on Belmont Avenue, south on Broadway and east on Diversey Parkway to Sheridan Road. There will be cooling buses and medical tents along the way.

Sunday’s weather was breezy with temperatures expected to reach the mid-70s, according to the National Weather Service Chicago.

Road closures began as early as 7:30 a.m. for staging areas and as early as 8:30 a.m. for the parade route, including Irving Park and Wellington at Broadway and Addison, Grace, and Roscoe at Halsted, according to the city.The city plans to reopen the streets by 4 p.m.

Before the parade, streets around the route were crowded with people wearing crop tops, colorful beads, stilettos and heart-shaped sunglasses.

Ki Brown, 25 and Ky Ferba, 23 —  who wore matching red and blue outfits — said they had driven 40 minutes that morning to get to Chicago from Ford Heights. They stood on North Broadway and waited to watch the floats. They said they became friends in high school because they were both masculine-presenting and openly gay.

“At the time, there wasn’t a lot of other people like that in school,” Brown said.

Ferba was a freshman and Brown was a junior when they found out that gay marriage was legal. Now Brown is married and Ferba is dating Brown’s sister.

They said that progress for more LGBTQ rights has been slow but forward-moving in Illinois. But they lamented progress in other, more conservative states.

“We just want to be treated the same. We just want to participate and love,” Ferba said.

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