SOUTH SHORE — New rules this year for the Bud Billiken parade have led the South Shore Drill team to pull out, officials said.
The Chicago Defender Charities oversees the annual back-to-school parade, which starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, an hour earlier than in years past.
Executive director Mark Sengstacke said that in order to lower operational costs for the charity and the city, organizers needed to shorten the parade. One way to do that is by reducing the number of participants in the parade, Sengstacke said.
He said the South Shore Drill Team made the decision not to participate.
“We decided to limit all performing teams to a 100 or less and they decided that they didn’t want to have to tell some of their members that they could or could not be in the parade” Sengstacke said. “They decided to not be in the parade at all. That was their decision.”
Last year, the team marched 241 people, which included the performers, who range in ages from 8-24, along with the sound system crew, staff and volunteers.
“You can not pick and choose who does the Bud Billiken Parade,” drill team spokeswoman Stella Natufe said, adding the team was told it could take part in the parade but only if just 100 of its members took part.
“They look forward to performing,” she said. “We cannot tell half of the kids they can’t participate. This is their parade, their time to shine in front of all of their friends and family because [they] don’t get to see them perform when we go out of town. Bud Billiken is the day when [everyone] can see them.”
The team had been practicing seven days a week for six hours a day in preparation for the 87th annual parade, Natufe said.
Sengstacke said the parade will still be a hit this year even without their presence.
“We will have many of the drill teams, dance teams and bands as usual in the parade,” he said.
“There are many youth performing teams who work hard throughout the year for this one day so they can show us all the positive things they do,” Sengstacke said. “When you come to this, you’re saying to the children and youth on these teams that we support you and that we’re behind you and we want you to succeed.”
The Bud Billiken Parade is the oldest and largest African-American parade in the United States. This year's grand marshal is Katherine Branch, director of special projects in the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House.
The parade begins at 39th and King Drive and heads southbound along King, ending at Ellsworth Drive, where a big picnic in Washington Park takes place.
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