Changes coming as annual parade becomes a victim of its own success
The City of Chicago is making some significant changes to the annual Gay Pride Parade following this June's record-breaking attendance, which seemed too much for Chicago police to handle.PRIDEChicago
, the parade organizers, in conjunction with the city have announced changes to start time, route and size, all in an effort to better manage crowds and discourage public drinking.
"The bottom line is public safety," PRIDEChicago
coordinator Richard Pfeiffer told ChicagoPride.com.
The Chicago Gay Pride Parade was first held in 1970 with about 250 participants and spectators. The annual parade, which is held the last Sunday in June, has since grown to become the second-largest parade in Chicago, behind the annual Bud Billiken Parade.
Nearly 800,000 people, a number that has doubled over the last three years, crowded into the Lakeview neighborhood for the 42nd annual parade on June 26, 2011. This year's parade was cut short when several entries were diverted from the parade route over safety concerns due to overcrowding.
As a result, the 2012 parade route will be lengthened by 5 blocks to allow more space to view the parade, in what the city hopes will stagger the increased amount of spectators throughout the Lakeview neighborhood.
For the first time, the parade will begin at Montrose and Broadway in the Uptown neighborhood instead of the traditional Belmont and Halsted start. The parade will then travel south on Broadway to Halsted before turning east on Belmont, south on Broadway and east on Diversey to Canon Drive.
The new route also will add two CTA L stations, Wilson and Sheridan, which the city hopes will reduce choke points at the Belmont and Addison stations.
The parade will no longer make a V-turn from Halsted back down Broadway, which created a bottleneck for parade viewing and often slowed the parade as floats tried to maneuver the tight corner.
Unfortunately the change will eliminate Broadway Ave. from Grace to Belmont, leaving out a number of gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses, including Pie Hole Pizza.
"The reroute completely cuts out Boystown's Broadway corridor between Grace and Belmont," Pie Hole owner Doug Brandt told ChicagoPride.com. "Over 50 businesses are shut out of what they have supported and relied on for years as a much needed summer boost in revenue."
"We truly understand the need to open up the center 'island' caused by the old route," added Brandt.
The parade will now step off at 10 a.m. instead of noon in an attempt to curb the excessive public consumption of alcohol that was threatening the future of the pride parade. (Update: 2012 Chicago Gay Pride Parade shifted to later start time
The number of participants also will be reduced from 250 to 200 to shorten the parade. PRIDEChicago
says the increase in spectators at both LGBT and non-LGBT parades has been an issue in recent years in Chicago and nationwide.
Chicago's South Side Irish Parade was canceled in 2009 after a crowd of 300,000 people became too much for police and organizers to handle.
"The changes were a joint decision," said Pfeiffer, who met with city representatives before and after the parade.
"We had several post-pride parade meetings this year with police, the fire department, OEMC, chambers of commerce and parade organizers to discuss ways we could work together towards a safer parade," said Max Bever, Director of Communications and Community Outreach for Ald. Tom Tunney (44th Ward). "In our meetings, the local chambers of commerce were supportive of the time change and attempts to make it a safer parade for all."