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Everything You Need To Know About This Weekend's Pride Parade

By  Ariel Cheung and Josh McGhee | June 23, 2017 8:16am | Updated on June 25, 2017 9:22am

 Balloons by Tommy brought huge balloon letters reading
Balloons by Tommy brought huge balloon letters reading "Victory," "Chicago" and "Pride 2015" to the 46th annual Chicago Pride Parade in Boystown in 2015.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

BOYSTOWN — For the 48th year, Boystown will erupt in rainbow balloons and confetti this weekend to celebrate the pride of Chicago's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities.

Whether it's your first time at the parade or your 20th, there's some important information you should know to make this your best Pride yet.

Here's everything you need to know about Chicago's Pride Parade. 

Why do we have a Pride Parade?

Chicago's Pride Parade began in 1970, one year after police brutality against LGBTQ people in New York sparked the Stonewall riot, named for the Greenwich Village gay bar where patrons fought back against a police raid.

While just a few hundred people attended the Chicago Gay Pride Parade in its earliest years, attendance has hovered close to 1 million people in recent years.

And although the parade is a celebration of the progress toward equality for people who are LGBTQ, it's also a reminder of the work that is left to advance the rights of still-marginalized people, particularly LGBTQ people of color, homeless youth and transgender people.

When is the parade?

It kicks off at noon Sunday at Montrose and Broadway and progresses through Uptown and Lakeview. In recent years, the parade has lasted anywhere from 2½ hours to nearly five hours. While the city marks the parade as ending once the last entry crosses the starting line (making the official time relatively shorter), it takes about four hours for the final marcher to finish.

With fewer entries in this year's parade — down to 150 — the parade should be shorter than before, although there have been unexpected delays in the past.

Where is the parade?

The parade marchers queue up along Montrose Avenue and Broadway, branching off from the starting point. It trails down Broadway until the street bisects, and then the parade travels down Halsted Street to Belmont Avenue. The procession turns east on Belmont and returns to Broadway before its final leg going east on Diversey Parkway. The parade ends at Diversey and Sheridan Road.

There are only a few spots where those on the sidelines can cross over to the other side of the street. Those are on Halsted at Grace, Addison, Cornelia, Roscoe and Aldine. Pedestrians can cross Broadway at Montrose, Irving Park, Wellington and Oakdale.

Who is in the parade?

Chicago's LGBTQ organizations are vast and fabulous, and people from all walks of life will march, including American Veterans for Equal Rights, the Lesbian Gay Police Association, Windy City Rollers, Chicago Gay Bikers, the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus, Asians & Friends, the National Gay Pilots Association and Chicago Leather/Fetish Pride.

Leading them all will be grand marshal Lea DeLaria, best known as "Big Boo" on the Netflix series, "Orange is the New Black."

Crowd favorites like Folia Brasil, Balloons by Tommy and PAWS Chicago will return, and parade attendees will recognize plenty of local faces, like the Chicago Cubs, ABC7 Chicago, WGN Television, WCIU The U and Fox 32 Chicago.

Corporate floats are mostly placed at the end of the parade. After the first 100 entries, most floats are for national companies like Pepsi, Nordstrom, Groupon, Chipotle, Gap, Tesla, Bud Light and Smirnoff Vodka.

There are 10 fewer entries this year, marking a drop from 160 a year earlier and 200 in 2015.

How do I get to the parade?

As with most major events in Lakeview, you'll save yourself a lot of grief by avoiding traffic and not driving to the parade.

The CTA will increase rail service on the Red, Brown, Blue and Orange lines for most of the day, and officials recommend leaving the parade from a different station than Belmont — which tends to be the most crowded and is sometimes shut down for safety — to alleviate congestion. For the Red Line, that means getting on at Sheridan, Addison or Wilson or using the Wellington or Diversey stations for the Brown Line.

Bicycles will not be permitted on CTA trains Sunday, but they are allowed on the racks on the front of buses. Strollers and carts must be folded before boarding.

The CTA recommends purchasing fares in advance to avoid long lines. For more information, visit transitchicago.com/prideparade.

Buses will travel more frequently along the No. 74 Fullerton, No. 77 Belmont and No. 78 Montrose routes until 5:30 p.m.

Several buses will be rerouted due to street closures: No. 8 Halsted, No. 22 Clark, No. 36 Broadway, No. 76 Diversey, No. 77 Belmont, No. 78 Montrose, No. 80 Irving Park, No. 151 Sheridan and No. 152 Addison. Get specific details on the reroutes here.

With the reroutes and heavy traffic, the CTA advises that rail service might be more reliable than bus service, which could also experience additional reroutes.

Which streets are closed?

Starting at 10 a.m., the following streets will be closed to all vehicular traffic until around 8 p.m.: Broadway from Montrose to Irving Park, Halsted from Sheridan to Belmont, Belmont from Clark to Broadway, Broadway from Belmont to Diversey and Diversey from Clark and Sheridan.

Where can I park?

There won't be much parking available near the parade, so if you're driving in from outside the city, be prepared to park outside of the immediate area. 

Parking will be restricted from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday on both sides of the following streets:

• Montrose Avenue from Greenview to Hazel

• Broadway Street from Leland to Grace and from Melrose to Diversey

• Sunnyside Avenue from Broadway to Sheridan

• Wellington Avenue from Sheffield to Clark

• Diversey Parkway from Broadway to Cannon/Sheridan

• Cannon Drive from Diversey to Fullerton

• Addison Street from 736 W. Addison St. to Sheffield

• Waveland Avenue from Halsted to Broadway

• Grace Street from Halsted to Fremont

• Clifton Avenue from Montrose to Sunnyside

• Sheridan Road from Sunnyside to Buena and Montrose to Agatite

• Buena Avenue from Sheridan to Broadway

These parking restrictions will be in place until 9 a.m. Monday:

• Halsted Street from Grace to Belmont

• Belmont Avenue from Racine to Broadway

Where can I cross the parade route?

There are nine pedestrian intersections where officers will help attendees cross Halsted or Broadway along the parade route. On Halsted, the crossings are at Grace, Addison, Cornelia, Roscoe and Aldine. Pedestrians can cross Broadway at Montrose, Irving Park, Wellington and Oakdale.

Can I bring booze?


In recent years, neighbors have pushed for stricter public safety plans and harsher enforcement against open containers of alcohol along the parade route.

There will be checkpoints along the parade route, and violators risk getting slapped with fines up to $1,000. There will also be more security, with organizers promising 160 off-duty security and police officers to supplement Chicago Police Department manpower.

Officials will be on the lookout for over-drinking by patrons and over-packed bars (which can get them temporarily shut down). Most 4 a.m. bars have agreed to close at 2 a.m.

Parade organizers also note that public urination can also result in a ticket. There are plenty of portable toilets set up in Boystown for the parade.

What's the weather forecast?

The National Weather Service is predicting below-average temperatures for the weekend, with a low chance for thunderstorms. If it does rain — there's about a 30 percent chance — expect it to be scattered showers Sunday afternoon after 1 p.m.

But overall, it's a mostly sunny forecast with a high of 73 degrees and a low of 56 at night.

Where can I cool off?

If you find yourself feeling a little overheated, there will be stationary CTA cooling buses in four locations: Addison west of Halsted, Halsted south of Belmont, Belmont east of Broadway and Wilton north of Belmont.

Where can I get help?

If you need first aid, the Chicago Fire Department has first aid stations at 901 W. Addison St. (west of Fremont), 765 W. Roscoe St. (east of Halsted), 3165 N. Halsted St. (south of Belmont), 561 W. Surf St. (at Broadway north of Diversey) and 802 W. Roscoe St. (west of Halsted).

There will also be a public safety command center on Belmont Avenue between Clark and Halsted.

A designated outdoor area for seniors will be in the 600 block of West Diversey Parkway, toward the end of the parade route. Sidewalks will be less crowded, and there are portable toilets for people with physical challenges.

Where can I watch the parade besides on the street?

Officials are warning neighbors who live near the parade that rooftop parties will not be allowed during or after the parade, and the ban will be "strictly enforced." Avoid overcrowding on balconies and porches and don't throw items from them.

Many bars on the parade route will be packed, but some with street-facing windows will open up to provide a premium view of the parade. Get there early if you want a seat.

What should I bring?

Sunscreen, bottled water and some kind of head covering like a hat or visor. Wear lightweight clothing.

Where's the merch?

While the organizer of the parade don't have any official merchandise tents, buttons with the PRIDE logo can be found at the following retail locations: Batteries Not Included, 3704 N. Halsted St.; Bobby's Love, 3729 N. Halsted St.; He Who Eats Mud, 3247 N. Broadway; Inn Exile, 5758 W. 65th St.; Scot's, 1829 W. Montrose Ave.; Unabridged Books, 3251 N. Broadway and Women & Children First Books, 5233 N. Clark St.

How can I provide tangible support for LGBTQ community?

While there are countless nonprofit organizations that can put your donation toward a rainbow of advocacy efforts, allies who want to uplift the community can also do so by supporting LGBTQ-owned businesses in Chicago.

RELATED: How Chicago's Queer Business Owners Are Turning Pride Into Livelihoods

Despite almost a half-century of progress toward equality, it remains much harder for LGBTQ folks — particularly queer people of color — to find steady employment and housing.

LGBTQ people are more likely to be poor, and transgender people of color face up to four times the national unemployment rate.

For more information on Chicago's LGBTQ-owned businesses, check out our interactive map with a listing of more than 150 restaurants, bars, shops, professional services and cultural ventures in the city.

Where can I get some food?

Uptown United has organized several deals with businesses for those who bring in a rainbow "Uptown Proud" rainbow flag. Below are some of food deals and more deals are available here.

• Fat Cat, 4840 N. Broadway, is offering complimentary cinnamon sugar doughnuts with purchase of an entree.

Tesfa Ethiopian, 1023 W. Wilson Ave., is offering 10 percent off the bill of those who have a Pride flag with them.

Demera Ethiopian, 4801 N. Broadway, is offering 20 percent off the total bill of those who have a Pride flag with them.

• Papa Ray's, 4757 N. Sheridan Road, is offering several discounts for those who have a Pride flag with them.

Big Chicks, 5024 N. Sheridan Road, will host a free barbecue with cheeseburgers, veggie burgers, bratwursts and hot dogs from 4-6 p.m.

What about coffee?

Satellite Cafe, 942 W. Montrose Ave.

Klein's Bakery, 4155 N. Broadway

Dollop Coffee, 4181 N. Clarendon Ave.

Emerald City, 1224 W. Wilson Ave. and 3938 N. Sheridan Road.

Everybody's Coffee, 935 W. Wilson Ave.

• Starbucks inside Target, 4446 N. Broadway

• Pride Arts Center, 4147 N. Broadway, will offer a complimentary breakfast of coffee, snacks and camaraderie at 10 a.m.

What if I'm looking for a party?

Well, friends, the party is all around you (that's the beauty of Boystown). But if you're looking for something more specific, here are a few events that might be worth your while:

Mermaid pool party: Deuces & The Diamond Club over in Wrigleyville, 3505 N. Clark St., will host a pool party from noon to 10 p.m. featuring body painting, a magic unicorn, glitter girls and a mermaid. Get Absolut bottle service for $150 and Coronaitas for $6. For cabana and table reservations, call 630-215-8275.

Back Lot Bash: The Andersonville bash held in the parking lot behind Cheetah Gym, 5248 N. Clark St., has become a destination for lesbians' during Pride Weekend with a schedule full of live female performers. Performers include Dev, DJ Goodboy, Daniela Sea & Gunn Lundemo and Bria & Chrissy. Tickets to the festival are available here. 4-10 p.m.

• Journey To The Center of Pride: This Pride celebration includes DJs, live performers, drag entertainers, gogo dancers, queer nightlife personalities, fashion designers, interactive installations and a ball pit. Annoyance Theater, 851 W. Belmont Ave. 2 p.m. Tickets are $10.