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A parade member holds up balloons as they lead a balloon float during the 53rd annual Chicago Pride Parade in the Northhalsted neighborhood, Sunday, June 30, 2024.

The 53rd annual Chicago Pride Parade kicked off Sunday morning just as the sun peaked through the clouds at 11 in Lake View. A parade member holds up balloons while leading a balloon float.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Trimmed and tightened Pride Parade is as jubilant as ever: 'It's still Pride'

Mayor Brandon Johnson waved a Pride flag and Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas twirled a baton. The route was shortened and fewer floats were admitted this year, but that didn’t take away from the fun.

Rainbow-clad crowds filled the sidewalks in the heart of Lake View on Sunday for Chicago’s 53rd annual Pride Parade.

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And despite a shorter route and fewer floats, the celebration capping off Pride Month was as joyous and vibrant as in years past.

“It’s just a good time,” said Christina Muñoz, who came from Berwyn to watch the parade with friends.

Parade organizers decided to scale back the celebration this year, shortening the route and cutting the number of floats from 200 to 150 out of concerns for safety and limited city resources.

The Chicago Police Department staffed more officers at the parade on Sunday and in the surrounding area for post-parade celebrations.

The department also is staffing officers in the late-night hours after the celebration, which has seen large crowds taking over streets and some violent crime in recent years.

Several paradegoers told the Sun-Times they didn’t notice a difference and they would rather have a shorter parade if it meant everyone could stay safe.

PRIDEPARADE-070124-34.jpgMembers of the crowd cheer during the 53rd annual Chicago Pride Parade in the Northhalsted neighborhood, Sunday, June 30, 2024.

Cheering crowds line the parade route. The parade route was shortened from year’s past, and the number of floats was scaled back. Police were on hand to ensure the celebrations were peaceful.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

“Security is very important. So they had to do what they had to do,” Muñoz said. “But I really can’t see a difference — it’s still Pride.”

The parade stepped off at 11 a.m. — just as the sun broke through the clouds — at the intersection of West Sheridan Road and North Broadway. It then wound south through Lake View and ended at West Diversey Parkway and North Cannon Drive.

Floats represented LGBTQ+ groups like Equality Illinois and the Center on Halsted, local sports teams with their mascots, and corporations such as Jewel-Osco and Smirnoff. The Legacy Project, which highlights LGBTQ+ historical figures, held up signs with the faces of Michelangelo, Walt Whitman and Frida Kahlo.

PRIDEPARADE-070124-02.jpg

Mayor Brandon Johnson waves to the crowd Sunday. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators briefly held up the parade.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Mayor Brandon Johnson carried a Pride-themed Chicago flag, and Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas twirled a baton.

Nettelhorst School and Near North Montessori also marched in the parade. The schools were one of several that usually participate in the parade but were initially denied slots this year. PRIDEChicago, which puts on the parade, quickly reversed that decision in April.

‘Party of love’

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators briefly stopped the parade at Broadway and Barry Avenue. They held a banner that read, “9 minutes of silence for 9 months of genocide.” Once nine minutes passed, Chicago police officers escorted them off the street.

The demonstration happened in front of the float for Sidetrack, a Northalsted gay bar. Anna DeShawn, the emcee on the float, pointed out that Pride is a celebration with roots in protest.

“Thank you, protesters,” DeShawn said. “Let’s all remember Pride started as a riot. We can protest and celebrate together.”

The crowd cheered and the parade resumed. Later, a large group of pro-Palestinian activists marched in the parade.

PRIDEPARADE-070124-16.jpgA parade member is surrounded by confetti during the 53rd annual Chicago Pride Parade in the Northhalsted neighborhood, Sunday, June 30, 2024.

Confetti rains down on a marcher.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Carol Burnett has been selling merchandise at every Pride Parade for the last 10 years. She sold miniature and full-sized Pride flags, rainbow beads and leis.

“I love all the excitement,” said Burnett, who had a Pride flag draped across her shoulders and a rainbow flower crown on her head.

“People are very happy, very friendly. It’s a party of love,” she added.

PRIDEPARADE-070124-31.jpgA parade member dressed in balloons walks by during the 53rd annual Chicago Pride Parade in the Northhalsted neighborhood, Sunday, June 30, 2024.

A parade marcher in dress and train composed of balloons.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Simon Truesdale, 24, lives in Lake View, around the corner from the parade route. He’s originally from West Virginia, and Sunday was the second Pride Parade he had ever been to.

“It still feels incredible, just like the first time,” he said, beaming and waving the pink, blue and white trans flag.

“Queer people used to not be safe just walking down the streets. Now, we’re able to have this massive parade. It really is a reminder of the progress we’ve made.”

PRIDEPARADE-070124-35.jpgMotorcyclists drive by during the 53rd annual Chicago Pride Parade in the Northhalsted neighborhood, Sunday, June 30, 2024.

Motorcyclists rumble along the parade route.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Sam Alfassa, 29, and Jordan Galarnean, 26, cheered as a group of motorcycles rumbled along Broadway. Alfassa and Galarnean became friends after meeting through Alfassa’s wife.

“The motorcycles are my favorite every year. They really rev the crowd up,” Alfassa said.

Mark Gershman, 61, wasn’t planning on coming to the parade. He was in the neighborhood to have brunch at a friend’s place who encouraged him to tag along to the parade.

“I’ve been to plenty of parades,” said Gershman, who attended his first Pride Parade in 1984, riding on a float for a bar.

“But this is so fun, I’m really glad I came.”

PRIDEPARADE-070124-05.jpgMembers of the parade hold up balloons that spell out Chicago in pride colors during the 53rd annual Chicago Pride Parade in the Lake View neighborhood, Sunday, June 30, 2024. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Parade marchers hold up balloons spelling out Chicago at Sunday’s parade. “It’s just a good time,” said Christina Muñoz, who came from Berwyn to watch the parade with friends.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

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