The annual Chicago Pride Parade returned to the city in full force after cancellations over the last two years due to the COVID pandemic.
Decked out in rainbows, sparkles and fishnets, thousands flocked to Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood for the city’s 51st Pride Parade on Sunday afternoon.
Attendees celebrated the return of the city’s iconic parade, which falls toward the end of June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots that kicked off the Gay Rights Movement.
The parade started at Montrose Avenue and Broadway and worked its way through the North Side neighborhood to the corner of Diversey Parkway and Sheridan Road in Lincoln Park.
Courtney Rhodes, 39, wearing a head-to-toe rainbow ensemble, said the parade is his favorite event of the year.
“It feels great to be back after two years, I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” Rhodes said. Sunday’s celebration was the fourth pride parade he’s attended.
Street vendors sold rainbow flags, leis and fans. Parade-goers wore bright colors and draped flags on their shoulders from across the LGBTQ+ spectrum — including the transgender, asexual, bisexual and nonbinary flags.
Parade floats featured local LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations — like the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame and the Chicago Gender Society — Chicago and Illinois politicians, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot, health care providers, veterinary clinics, mascots from Chicago sport teams, law firms, public defenders, Chicago Teachers Union, Brazilian samba dancers and a mariachi band.
Attending her first pride parade in 15 years, Sayra Caldron, 49, said she was amazed by the day’s festivities. She first attended Chicago’s pride parade with her brother, who is gay.
“It meant so much to go with my brother 15 years ago, and it’s so special to be here today,” Caldron said. “It’s all so beautiful and exciting.”
She was also happy to share in the joy with her nephew Javier, who was visiting from Mexico.
Courtney Graham, who was attending her first pride parade, said she was overwhelmed by the celebration.
“It’s amazing to be here; we made it through the last two years and it’s time to celebrate,” Graham said.
Many also expressed worry and anger over Friday’s Supreme Court decision overturning abortion rights granted in Roe v. Wade. Some attendees and parade floats had banners that read “Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights,” “Bans Off Our Bodies,” “Hands Off Our Rights” and “Overturn Roe? Hell no!”
Holding a sign declaring, “Buckle Up, They’re Coming for Us Next!!,” Joseph Rulli said the Supreme Court is likely attempt to also overturn decisions granting LGBTQ rights. Those include Lawrence v. Texas, protecting same-sex intercourse, and Obergefell v. Hodges, granting the right to same-sex marriage.
In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said the Supreme Court “should reconsider” those two cases and Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized contraception for married couples.
“It’s all about coming after our rights to privacy,” said Rulli, who first started coming to pride 15 years ago. “I normally hold a sign that says, ‘Stonewall 1969 hasn’t always been a party’ but this one felt more relevant today.”
Gary Gits, 74, has attended three pride parades, but Sunday’s felt like the most important.
“We have to preserve this beauty,” Gits said. “If we don’t show our support now, we risk losing our freedoms. I’m scared. I don’t want all of this to be shoved back into the closet.”
Sunday’s event was the first since Richard Pfeiffer, longtime coordinator of the parade, passed in October 2019, according to the parade’s website.
Pfeiffer had been the coordinator since 1974, and held that position through 2019’s 50th annual parade. Sunday’s parade was held in his honor.