Chicagoans might need to wake up a little earlier for the Gay Pride Parade next summer; parade organizers plan to start the festivities at 10 a.m. instead of noon. Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said he hopes the move will make the crowds more manageable and decrease outside alcohol consumption.
"The changes were precipitated by the actual success of the event and the attendees," said Tunney. "We went from 400,000 to basically 800,000 in a period of three years. What happened is it got too congested, unsafe, for the residents, and actually the spectators."
Parade coordinator Richard Pfeiffer agreed. "Most people are not there getting drunk or drinking, but you have a certain element of people that decide they want to get drunk, so by having the parade two hours earlier, we think that may allieviate some of that problem," Pfeiffer said.
According to Pfeiffer, clean-up costs after the parade have increased four times what they were a few years ago, and much of those parade expenses have fallen on the shoulders of Pride organizers.
Pfeiffer said multiple city departments have been involved in discussing potential changes to better next year's parade, scheduled for Sunday June 24, 2012, including the Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Fire Department, the Office of Emergency Management, and the Department of Streets & Sanitation, as well as the mayor's office and applicable aldermen. 2011's parade had record-setting numbers, which organizers said could be attributed to several historic LGBT events occuring right before the event, including the passage of civil unions in Illinois and the legalization of gay marriage in New York.
Parade organizers also plan to lengthen the route by five blocks to allow for more space for spectators, which will increase the access to the parade by two El stops. They'll also decrease the number of entries to the parade from 250 to 200.
According to Tunney, safety is the top priority in implementing these changes, which won't be implemented until permits are submitted after the new year. "We knew there was an accident waiting to happen," he said. "A serious accident waiting to happen."
Updated at 9:34 am on 10/06/11: This piece has been corrected to clarify that the number of floats will be decreased in 2012, not the number of entry points to the parade.