Chicago, IL —
Huge changes are in store for the June 24 Chicago Pride Parade this year, including a new route, new neighborhoods and more accessibility, all with one thing in mind.
"The bottom line was the safety of the people," said Parade Coordinator Richard Pfeiffer.
Attendance at the parade swelled in recent years, with some estimating that 750,000 spectators flooded into Boystown to watch the parade last year. That created big problems for parade organizers, police and the spectators themselves.
"We had such a problem at the corner of Halsted and Belmont, for one," Pfeiffer said.
There, spectators flooded in from the nearby Belmont L station, creating a bottleneck at Halsted that blocked later parade entries from getting through and forced too many spectators into sidewalk areas that weren't large enough to accommodate them.
That led to extensive discussions between parade organizers, police and city officials, talks that resulted in a major revamp of the parade. For starters, the parade no longer begins at Halsted and Belmont, nor does it go north to the end of Halsted, then take a sharp turn south on Broadway.
This year, the parade begins in Uptown at Broadway and Montrose, going south on Broadway to Halsted and Grace. From there, it goes south on Halsted to Belmont, then east on Belmont to Broadway, south on Broadway to Diversey, then east on Diversey to Cannon Drive.
Pfeiffer said the changes should please some people who wanted more viewing options than the crowded sidewalks in Boystown.
"Some people love the crowds on Halsted and some don't," Pfeiffer said. "The new stretch on Broadway is tree-lined and there's more room on the sidewalks."
With the parade now coming south through Uptown and Buena Park, Pfeiffer added, spectators who want to watch it there can use two Red Line L stations, Sheridan and Wilson, that previously weren't close to the parade route.
Organizers hope those changes, plus fewer parade entries, make for a parade that moves more efficiently and meets a city ordinance requirement that gives all parades two hours and 15 minutes to get entrants off from the start point.
"What we said was that we would go down to 200 entries, down from 250," Pfeiffer said.
But even so, Pfeiffer added that this year's parade features new entries, including one from Lake View High School.
Spectators should also be able to move about more easily, thanks to the creation of seven crossover points where spectators can get through the barricades, which line the entire route, with the help of police. Crossovers are at Montrose, Irving Park, Grace, Addison, Roscoe and Wellington.
"There will be four police officers at each crossover to assist people," Pfeiffer said.
After the end of the parade goes through an area, workers plan to begin immediate clean-up and removal of the barricades to get cross streets open as soon as possible. On Halsted, as the parade ends, barricades are to be moved up on to the edge of the sidewalks to allow clean-up and keep crowds off the street. Unlike in recent years, police and city officials have decided they won't keep Halsted closed to traffic for hours after the parade.
The parade still starts at noon, as in recent years. Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, which is on the parade route on Belmont, complained about a proposed start time of 10 a.m. Church officials said that would interfere with their worship services so city officials and parade organizers agreed to start at noon.
"There were pros and cons on both times," Pfeiffer said, adding that there have been no further complaints.
As always, consumption of alcoholic beverages by spectators along the parade route is prohibited, and violators may be ticketed by police.Related: Chicago Pride Parade line of marchRelated: Online Pride Guide
, tips and information about the Chicago Pride Parade, Sunday, June 24