BRONZEVILLE — New rules last year led the South Shore Drill Team to angrily pull out of the Bud Billiken Parade, but parade officials said that the group is returning this year.
“The community spoke, and we listened," said Myiti Sengstacke-Rice, newly elected president of Chicago Defender Charities, which oversees the annual back-to-school parade. "We’re looking forward to a successful 2017 parade.”
Sengstacke-Rice is the granddaughter of Robert Sengstacke Abbott, founder of the historic Defender newspaper.
This will be the 88th year for the oldest and largest African-American parade in the United States.
This year Chicago artist Chance the Rapper — who took home three Grammys this month — will be the grand marshal, which kicks off from Martin Luther King Drive and Oakwood Boulevard in Bronzeville at 10 a.m. on Aug. 12.
Last August, Defender Charities former executive director, Mark Sengstacke — whose new role as director of development excludes him from the planning or execution of the parade — 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 was by reducing the number of participants in the parade, he said.
The organizers decided to limit all performing teams to 100 people or fewer, and the South Shore Drill Team made the decision not to participate, Sengstacke said.
"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,” he said. “They decided to not be in the parade at all. That was their decision.”
In 2015, the drill team marched 241 people, which included the performers, who range in ages from 8 to 24, along with the sound system crew, staff and volunteers.
This year the organizers are welcoming back the performing team without any restrictions on participants, they said.
“The drill team is part of the Bud Billiken family," Kristal Davis, spokeswoman for Chicago Defender Charities, said in a prepared statement. "Their presence was missed in 2016. Our new leadership team worked tirelessly to restore the relationship.”
Sara Vlajcic, the South Shore Drill Team's administrative director, said that the team is looking forward to returning this year. They've been meeting with parade organizers since November to come to a mutual agreement, she said.
"We're really excited about this year," she said. "Both sides shared their concerns and now we're satisified. This is a community event so to have [the parade] right in the neighborhood where they live — one where their friends and family can watch and cheer them on — that's priceless."
Vlajcic said the young participants love Chance the Rapper and are excited that he'll be in the parade this year.
It's too early to know how many will be in the parade because they're still recruiting for the summer, she said.
Other changes this year include the parade going back to its original start time at 10 a.m. In 2016, it started at 9 a.m.
The number of groups marching will increase from 150 to 200. Food vendors will be allowed in Washington Park, and marching bands from historically black colleges and universities have been invited to participate.
Notable past participants have included: President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Lena Horne, Michael Jordan, Frank Thomas and Muhammad Ali.