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47th Chicago Pride Parade Slightly Subdued, But Still Full Of Color

By  Ariel Cheung and Alex Nitkin | June 26, 2016 3:56pm | Updated on June 26, 2016 7:59pm

 The Chicago Pride Parade kicked off at noon Sunday with a memorial for the victims of the Pulse night club shooting in Orlando before giving way to a colorful celebration of LGBTQ life.
Chicago Pride Parade 2016
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CHICAGO — You can't rain on our parade.

Despite forewarnings of thunderstorms predicted during majority of the 47th annual Chicago Gay Pride Parade, skies remained mostly clear after a brief drizzle moments before the parade began.

The rain gave way to a moment of silence at Broadway and Montrose, honoring the 49 victims of the Orlando shooting on June 12. Their photos and names led the parade.

"The most important thing to remember is that love will always conquer hate," said Jason Mendes-McAllister, a Chicago resident carrying a banner for his slain friend, Edward Sotomayor Jr. "Eddie was always about compassion for others, no matter if he had never met you before.

"There's a lot of love in the community today, and that's what Eddie embodied."

The celebration of the LGBTQ community was bursting with color, as everyone from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to "Chicago Fire" star Monica Raymund marched to show solidarity with LGBTQ Chicagoans.

Other elected officials present include Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, former Gov. Pat Quinn and Alds. Tom Tunney (44th), James Cappleman (46th) and Raymond Lopez (15th).

Despite starting on a somber note, the Chicago Pride Parade was filled with joy Sunday. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

Sparse raindrops never gave way to the promised storms, and by 2 p.m. the sun had burst through the clouds. The humidity lingered, and crowd members eagerly grabbed free fans and relished mists of water from parade marchers.

Some spots seemed less densely crowded than years past, particularly at the north and south ends of the parade route, which stretched from Montrose down to Diversey. Last year's parade had an estimated 1 million people in attendance.

For Anna Wolfe, 22, her first parade as an out queer person, Sunday felt more inclusive than in years past.

"There were really good vibes," Wolfe said. "The crowd can be very aggressive, but we didn't experience that (this year)."

Together with her friends Al Rosenberg and Jennifer Kiehl, Wolfe watched the parade from its starting point. Unsurprisingly, they loved the rainbow displays from Balloons By Tommy, a parade staple that this year included balloon unicorn suits and "1 PULSE" written in balloon letters commemorating the Pulse night club shooting in Orlando.

Another bright sight were clouds of colored powder, tossed into the air by students and parents from The Nettelhorst School in Lakeview. A golf cart blasted music as participants were drenched in a rainbow of color.

The Nettelhorst School tossed colored powder into the air during the Chicago Pride Parade Sunday. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

Rosenberg also said she noticed significant efforts from crowd members to make room in the front for disabled people, which they said was a change from years before.

Rosenberg, 25, who lives in Bridgeport, said it meant a lot to celebrate being "really gay" in a crowd of like-minded people.

"I live on the South Side, and sometimes I feel like the only gay person there," she said.

Officials delivered on promises of heightened security, with scores of police and off-duty security officers lining the parade route. Police kept a tight hold on the barricade, pushing members of the media behind the line for the first time.

A ban on alcohol was strictly enforced, with security checkpoints along the route keeping out open containers. Officials promised to enforce fines up to $1,000 for those caught with alcohol.

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