The Chicago Pride Parade is Sunday, and the celebration of the LGBTQ community will be part political demonstration and part gay St. Patrick’s Day. (Instead of green, it’s rainbow.)
This year’s parade comes during the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, when New York City police raided a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn and clashed with gay activists. The riots are widely considered a turning point for the modern gay rights movement.
Chicago organizers estimate about 1 million people will attend this year’s Pride Parade, which is a whole lotta people in one area of a city with a total population just shy of 3 million.
Here’s a rundown of what you need to know about the parade, along with tips from folks in the LGBTQ community on how to have the most fun if you’ve never been to the event.
When and where is the parade?
The parade is Sunday, June 30 and starts at noon. It begins in the Uptown neighborhood, at the intersection of Broadway and Montrose Avenue, and heads south toward Halsted Street.
The parade then makes its way along Halsted into the heart of Chicago’s LGBTQ neighborhood, Boystown, zigzags onto Belmont Avenue and then Broadway before ending near Lincoln Park.
Pro-tip: Pride veteran Shirley Adams said, “Stay on the side of the parade that allows you to get back to the train lines. No matter how green those bars and restaurants look on the other side!”
Can I drink alcohol during the parade?
No, it’s illegal to have open containers of alcohol in public.
In years past, this seemed more like a recommendation than a law because enforcement was sparse. But organizers say there will be more security this year and a “tighter rein on public alcohol consumption.”
If you get caught, you could get a $1,000 ticket.
Pro-tip: Delia Soto said, “Make sure you’re with a group who’s gonna take care of you if you get too intoxicated.”
Pro-tip: Chicago firefighter Jeri Caroline Medina recommended bringing water. “Every parade gets hotter than the next — in more ways than one,” she said.
What’s the best way to get to the parade?
The Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line train. It runs parallel to the parade, and the closest stations near the march are Wilson, Sheridan, Addison and Belmont. To accommodate the influx of people heading toward the area, the CTA says it will run extra trains on Sunday.
Metra will also increase service Sunday on the BNSF, Union Pacific-North and Union Pacific-West lines.
But whatever you do, try not to drive because that would pretty much be the worst idea ever. Taking a bus might also be dicey as the city closes multiple streets for the parade.
Where’s the best spot to watch the parade?
Boystown gets packed, so if you’re looking for a high-energy spot with tons of supreme people watching, look no further.
But be warned, it’s more crowded than an evening rush hour Red Line train during a Cubs game. So it’s highly recommended that you get to the neighborhood super early to claim a spot.
If crowds are not your thing, organizers encourage viewing the parade in Uptown.
Pro-tip: Parade Organizer Richard Pfeiffer says, “We beg people, don’t come to the [start] of the parade route because it is just jam packed there.”
Pro-tip: Eddie Colatorti, who lives near the parade route, said, “It gets really hot and really crowded, so find an exit strategy.”
Who’s in the parade?
The grand marshal is Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who made history this year for becoming the first openly gay person elected as the city’s “boss.”
The parade features local LGBTQ groups like the Chicago Gay Hockey Association, Equality Illinois and Howard Brown Health.
The parade also includes floats and marchers from Facebook, TD Ameritrade, Tesla, Starbucks and B96.
You can find a full lineup here.
Hunter Clauss is a digital editor who writes the station’s daily newsletter, The Rundown. You can follow him on Twitter at @whuntah. Alyssa Edes is a producer at WBEZ. You can follow her on Twitter at @alyssaedes.