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The Chi-Town Cheerleaders at the Bud Billiken Parade August 8th, 2015, Chicago. | James Foster/for Sun-Times Media

Tradition keeps thousands coming to Bud Billiken Parade

SHARE Tradition keeps thousands coming to Bud Billiken Parade
SHARE Tradition keeps thousands coming to Bud Billiken Parade

Bronzeville native Nicole Palmer cradled her 3-week-old baby as she watched the Bud Billiken Parade on Saturday.

Palmer, 28, has been going to the annual South Side parade — the oldest and largest black parade in the U.S. — since she was a kid. And now, with four children of her own, she’s keeping up the tradition.

“It’s just an event to look forward to. It’s something positive for the kids. There’s a lot of gun violence going on. This is something positive,” Palmer said.

Named after a mascot created by the Chicago Defender in 1923 representing a guardian to children,the parade is a reminder to kids that it’s almost back to school time. Chicago Public Schools start classes on Sept. 8 this year.

Despite the parade’s emphasis on children, there were plenty of adults lining King Drive for miles as politicians, marching bands and drill teams marched the streets.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel shook hands with the crowd. Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs stood atop a Jeep, and Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown brought hundreds to march with her.

The smell of barbecue was in the air — plumes of smoke in the air — as parade-goers prepared chicken, ribs and burgers.

Marching bands and drill teams performed their best routines. As the South Shore Drill team began their performance, people ran to catch them, phone cameras in hand to record the talented crew.

Tamika Brown made her way to King Drive near at 7 a.m.–a whole three hours before the parade would send thousands to the street.

Brown, 32, doesn’t live in Chicago anymore but always comes back home for the parade.

This year she came with her husband, and two children, ages 7 and 9.

“I have a lot of memories here,” Brown, now of Gurnee, said, adding that her kids are always excited to come back: “Every year they wait for it.”

Pat Jones, of Gresham, has been going to the parade since was 15. Now, 50, she continues the tradition with her mother, who’s now 68.

“This is a tradition. I’ve been coming since I was young. I was 15-years-old in the same spot right here,” Jones said.

“I just love the environment and the entertainment,” she said.

The Rich Central High School flag team march in the Bud Billiken Parade August 8th, 2015, Chicago. | James Foster/for Sun-Times Media

The Percy L. Julian High School flag team march in the Bud Billiken Parade August 8th, 2015, Chicago. | James Foster/for Sun-Times Media

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The Carter family at the Bud Billiken Parade August 8th, 2015, Chicago. | James Foster/for Sun-Times Media

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Melvin Knazze of the Chicago DODO Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen in the Bud Billiken Parade August 8th, 2015, Chicago. | James Foster/for Sun-Times Media

Dwayne Haynes grills pork sausages at the Bud Billiken Parade August 8th, 2015, Chicago. | James Foster/for Sun-Times Media

The girls from the reality television show “Bring It” ride in the Bud Billiken Parade August 8th, 2015, Chicago. | James Foster/for Sun-Times Media

Lamia Weatherspoon, middle, with her friends at the Bud Billiken Parade August 8th, 2015, Chicago. | James Foster/for Sun-Times Media

Christian Gaddis at the Bud Billiken Parade August 8th, 2015, Chicago. | James Foster/for Sun-Times Media

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