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Chicago Pride may run two weekends

Chicago Pride is now going to run two weekends.

Well, sort of.

Chicago’s annual Gay Pride Parade consisted of the parade that recently underwent a route change to accommodate record-high crowds and Pride Fest, a two-day precursor to the parade.

The parade itself attracted large crowds, with estimates of 850,000 last year.

However, Pride Fest, a relatively new addition to the Gay Pride Parade organized by the Northalsted Business Alliance, acted more so as a holding area for the spillover crowds that patronized the area’s bars, which during Pride weekend have lines wrapping around a city block with near-hour wait times.

“It’s a pretty intense weekend when you have the festival and the parade. We looked at it, a lot of people have said in past years: ‘Why don’t we do it another weekend?’  When you have a festival on Friday it shuts down a major thoroughfare on a weekday,” said Jen Gordon, spokesperson for the alliance.

The alliance is seeking to have Pride Fest on the Saturday and Sunday before pride, June 22 and 23.

It’s not official. In order to have a parade or special event (outdoor festival) an organization or person must first obtain a permit from the city — and the organization is still awaiting approval from the city.

“We met with East Lakeview neighbors last night and this is what we’d like to go forward with it.  Obviously the Pride Festival covers two different wards and in touch with Aldermen Cappleman’s and Tunney’s office,” Gordon said.

The Chicago Annual Pride Parde has a route that starts in Uptown, Alderman James Cappleman's 46th ward and Lakeview, Ald. Tom Tunney's 44th ward.

"We're still getting input from residents," said Sean Kotwa, co-chair for the alliance.

When asked if this would cure the problem of crowds or exacerbate it, giving bar-goers the opportunity to drink and party more on two weekends instead of one, Gordon said they believe it would split up the crowds somewhat, especially for tourists coming in from others states.

“A lot of the people are coming to Pride Fest for the entertainment line up, a lot more activity than the bars on the strip,” she said.

“We want to focus on the idea of celebrating pride and celebrating equality that whole week.”

The North Halsted Business Alliance, which organizes Pride Fest —but not the parade — is still awaiting permit approval from the city.

Comment from Tunney's office was not immediately available.

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