Don't rain on our parade: Chicago celebrates 50 years of Pride, though parade cut short

Mon. July 1, 2019 4:15 PM by Ross Forman

chicago pride parade cut short due to storms

photo credit // steven koch

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signs executive order protecting transgender students, marches in the parade

The 2019 Chicago Pride Parade long will be remembered as the milestone edition cut short by Mother Nature.

The 50th annual Chicago Pride Parade – held Sunday, June 30, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York – ended early due to "inclement weather," according to Chicago Police.

At 3:01 p.m., the Chicago Police Department tweeted: The Chicago Pride Parade has been canceled due to inclement weather.

City officials ordered the cancellation, according to parade coordinator Richard Pfeiffer.

The parade, as it has in recent years, was expected to draw record crowds, with many saying beforehand that 1 million would attend. The Daily Mail in the UK reported late Sunday night that, "More than 100,000 people were estimated to be in attendance at the event," leading locals to joke that the international media outlet was off by a zero in the estimated crowd. (Chicago's Pride Parade hasn't seen that low of a turnout since 1990.)

Chicago's first openly gay mayor, Lori Lightfoot, was the grand marshal, joined by her wife, Amy Eshleman. Lightfoot was one of seven honorary grand marshals, and she was joined for part of the parade by police superintendent Eddie Johnson.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker also walked in the parade.

"The 2019 Chicago Pride Parade was a joyous event, overflowing with noisy, happy people celebrating their authentic selves," said Sidetrack co-owner Art Johnston. "(It was) a special pleasure (having) the variety of grand marshals, including our very own Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, and her wife, Amy."

Molly Pinta, 13, was the Youth Grand Marshal – honored for her work to launch a Buffalo Grove Pride, held June 2 in the northwest suburb where she lives.

"The Chicago Pride Parade was incredible in every way, and meeting the other marshals who have done so much for this movement was an amazing honor," Pinta said. "The crowd and the entries were beautiful, full of love and acceptance."

"To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed an executive order affirming the full rights of transgender and gender non-conforming students to equity in public education and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the first open lesbian and African-American woman to hold the office, led the annual Pride Parade with her wife," said David Ernesto Munar, President and CEO of Howard Brown Health. "It was a resounding reminder of the progress made over the past five decades and the many opportunities ahead to secure dignity and equity for members of the LGBTQ community."

"To say that we were proud to be a part of the parade marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots is an understatement. It truly (was) a great celebration," said Tommy DeLorenzo of the popular parade entrant Balloons By Tommy. "To think of how far our community has come in such a short time is incredible. Though there is much work to do for our LGBTQ community, it's important to celebrate the progress that has been made.

"Yesterday proves that our fight for love and equality may not be done, but it is worth it."

The parade stepped off at 11:50 a.m., about 10 minutes early, as organizers hoped to beat the anticipated mid-afternoon storms, which brought dark, eerie clouds, lighting and rain.

The parade was stopped at about 2 p.m., and officially canceled at 2:25 p.m. after the National Weather Service issued a severe storm warning, meaning, a storm was imminent.

The parade started with the temperature hovering near 90 degrees.

Firefighters and paramedics had to tend to a number of people who were unresponsive amid the heat, and a 57-year old man suffered a cardiac arrest near the intersection of Roscoe and Halsted streets, according to police.

Paramedics worked to revive the man in a nearby ambulance, but he was later pronounced dead at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, according to CWB Chicago.

Pfeiffer said this was the first time that the parade has been cut short due to weather. However, the parade was cut short was in 2011 when record-breaking crowds seemed too much for Chicago Police to control and contingent numbers 192-240 were redirected from the parade route to Clark Street ending the parade early.

In 2012, the parade route was lengthened by five blocks to allow more space for spectators to view the crowd and the number of entries was cut from 250 to 200 entries to shorten the time of the parade. The start of the 43rd annual Chicago Pride Parade was moved to Montrose and Broadway in the Uptown neighborhood instead of the traditional Belmont and Halsted start.

"Chicago had a great deal to celebrate at the 50th annual Pride Parade," said parade attendee Kurt Dahl. "While the weather cut short the parade, it did not prevent the LGBTQ community from coming together (to) celebrate. It was an honor to see at an out, proud lesbian of color, mayor Lori Lightfoot, with her wife lead the parade, (along with fellow marshal) Jim Flint (for all he) has done for (the) Chicago queer community.

"Sunday's parade was a fitting end to Pride Month, celebrating 50 years of fighting for gay rights and showcasing the diversity of our queer community and our straight allies. I was so proud to be part of this historic day, joined by Jeff Clark, my husband and best friend of 27 years. While there is still much to do, including passing the Equality Act by the US Senate, Sunday allowed us to celebrate who we are and where we have come from and where we are headed."

Angel Miranda, the general manager of Scarlet in Boystown, said this year's Pride was nothing short of incredible.

"My team and I had such a fun time," he said. "It's always our favorite time of the year because not only are you meeting so many new people, but you are seeing people again who may have not been around for a bit. Everyone is just dancing, drinking, and being themselves. That's what I love most.

"You can tell that, for some people, this (was) the first time they were just able to be proud being who they are. The fact that this (was) the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, I think people were filled with Pride even more and weren't going to let things like a let rain stop their celebration. When it rained, yeah people got soaked, but you looked into the street you still just saw huge smiles, people waving their flags, and just continuing to be proud. I loved it."

According to Pfeiffer, a majority of this year's 160 entries made the parade route, though 39 entries, including nine floats, did not make the parade. Floats were moved off the parade route east to Lake Shore Drive causing a bottleneck of traffic in the area for hours.

Of the 39 entrees that did not make it onto the parade route, there were nine floats; the remainder were decorated trucks and marching groups. Those on the list that did not make it onto the route included United Way of Metropolitan Chicago (float/walkers), TD Ameritrade (float/walkers), Tesla, Inc. (vehicle/walkers), Verizon Wireless (walkers), Lyft (jeep/walkers) and Google (bus/walkers), among others.

The last entry to make it to the Center on Halsted was No. 65, Athletic Alliance of Chicago (float/walkers), meaning, about 100 of the overall 160 entrants did not make it into Boystown, the heart of Chicago's gay community, where the majority of the parade spectators awaited.

"Thankfully Chicago was able to celebrate Pride all June long, (so) in all corners of the city we saw rainbows and Pride celebrations," said Sidetrack general manager Brad Balof. "Fifty years ago people were marching for their lives. It was good that we could celebrate (and) honor the trailblazing bravery of those first protestors all month long and during the parade.

"It was remarkable to see all that the city did to keep the route and parade participants safe. I hope we can channel all this celebration into activation. We need to remain vigilant in this current national political climate that seeks to strip rights and harm the LGBTQ community."

Extra trains were scheduled in order to transport wet parade-goers out of the vicinity.

The parade began at Montrose Avenue and Broadway in Uptown, headed south on Broadway before turning right on Halsted Street, left on Belmont Avenue and right back to Broadway. The parade ended at Diversey Parkway at Sheridan Road.

CWB Chicago reported on Monday that 23 arrests were made in connection with the event and its aftermath, including an arrest in the recovery of a handgun. One person is known to have been arrested in the parade area while the march was underway.

The estimated 23 arrests are up from 16 last year and 19 in 2017. Still, the number of people taken into custody by police is significantly lower than the 52 arrested in 2015 and 46 detained in both 2013 and 2014, according to CWB Chicago.

Pinta, the 13-year-old from suburban Buffalo Grove, was certainly motivated by the Chicago Pride Parade. "I have many plans to keep it going all year long," she said. "BG Pride will be walking in two more parades this summer and has a huge National Coming Out Day Celebration booked for October 11th at a local venue. I also am hoping to be able to speak at many schools this fall, to show how much a person can accomplish to make change at age 12."

"What a fantastic 50th anniversary Pride weekend," said Chicago-based DJ Karsten Sollors, who was spinning over the weekend at Spybar alongside the legendary Victor Calderone and Cindel.

"It was an exceptional night of music and dancing.  I also collaborated on an exhibit by good friend and artist Brendan Fernandes by curating the soundscape for MCA's primetime pride event.   Sunday was all about the house parties with views of the parade, finishing it off with an impromptu DJ set back to back with Blu9 and Janky at a patio party just north of Boystown.  Finally, Queen at Smart Bar with hometown hero's Derrick Carter, Michael Serafini, Hijo Prodigo and Mr. White was a flawless end to a wonderful weekend.

"A special kudos to everyone involved with making Pride In The Park happen (on Saturday, which) was a huge success."

Photos: Pride In The Park