CHICAGO — With rainbow flags adorning the streets around Montrose Avenue and Broadway Street and rainbow-clad people staking claims to sidewalk spots near colorful floats, it became official: The annual Chicago Pride Parade was back.
The parade was canceled the past two years due to COVID-19 restrictions. But at noon Sunday it returned, stepping off in the Uptown neighborhood. It will end at the corner of Diversey Parkway and Sheridan Road in Lincoln Park, traversing its traditional route along Broadway and Halsted Street.
“People keep telling me how excited they are,” Tim Frye, the parade’s organizer, said in an interview with the Tribune before the parade. “After a while you say, ‘Yes, they’re just being nice’ — but I don’t think that anymore. I think it’s a very real thing,”
Near the parade’s start, numerous vendors were selling rainbow flags, souvenirs, food, and other refreshments, while cafes in the area filled up with parade-goers stocking up on caffeine and water in anticipation of the parade kickoff.
Organized Chaos, a women’s motorcycle group based in Chicago, is one of the groups riding in the parade. Kala Cullaras, 32, a member, was most excited for the “energy” and “liveliness” of the parade. For Cullaras, celebrating Pride is one of the few spaces where one can “truly express as (their) authentic self and be who (they) really were intended to be as opposed to trying to fit into a very monotone world.
“It’s always so moving and touching,” she said. “I end up in tears usually, because it’s such a momentous occasion that we get to embrace this brave space in spite of everything happening around us, that we’re still here and vibrant and just a colorful as usual, and not being muted or suppressed or anything. We are who we are.”
Parade-goers also reflected on the political moment during which the parade was taking place this year, as the country continues to react to a Supreme Court decision Friday overturning Roe v. Wade and concerns mount over the future of other rights that could challenged, including those impacting the LGBTQ+ community.
In Florida, legislators successfully banned instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade in March with the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Legislation in Texas has sought to criminalize parents who allow their children to seek gender affirming treatment.
Garrett Credi, 20, who was celebrating pride with his boyfriend and friends, expressed hope that parade-goers be able to find joy in pride despite heightened tensions and anxieties due to the Roe v. Wade overturning.
“I’m not somebody with a uterus so I can just (come) out here and celebrate,” Credi said. “But there are people that are having to deal with the reality that their bodies aren’t going to be controlled by themselves anymore, so having that in the context, it’s going to be a different Pride. I don’t know how that’s going to turn out, but hopefully it will turn out for a way for people to feel like they have agency and some way to have fun at a time like this.”