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Bud Billiken Parade to return Aug. 14

The longtime favorite will feature a shortened route from 51st Street to 55th Street after it was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Julian High School Marching Band in the 2017 Bud Billiken parade, Chicago, Saturday, August 12.
The Bud Billiken Parade returns to Washington Park on Aug. 14.
Sun-Times file

Bud Billiken is back.

After a year hiatus due to the pandemic, the parade will return to the South Side for the 92nd time on Saturday, Aug. 14. The event attracts tens of thousands of spectators and marchers to Washington Park.

The parade route will be shorter, starting at 51st Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and ending at 55th Street and Ellsworth Drive in Washington Park. The usual route steps off at 39th Street and King Drive. The route was shortened in hopes of limiting crowds, said Antawn Anderson, executive administrator and program director of the Bud Billiken Parade.

The number of parade performers, including dance troops and bands, will also be cut in half due to COVID-19 safety precautions.

But bringing back the event will restore a tradition featuring dances and performances that generations of South Siders and others have enjoyed.

The Bud Billiken Parade is the largest Black parade in the country, making it a staple event for many Black Chicagoans.

“I feel like everyone in Chicago, especially on the South Side, has a Bud Billiken story,” Anderson said of the back-to-school parade.

The character of “Bud” was created in 1925 to be a “protector of children,” part of the Black youth social club founded two years prior. The parade began in 1929.

“It’s more than a parade, and it’s more than one day,” Anderson said. “Individual leaders and dance directors put their lives into these children. And the reality is, in our community, dance saves lives.”

At the parade’s end, the annual free community festival is set to take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Anderson estimates between 70% and 80% of previous sponsors will return for this year’s event. In the past, donors have given away goods and services such as free school supplies and back-to-school haircuts.

Anderson hopes the parade’s return will create memories for another crop of youngsters and adults who lost out last year.

“My mom was a candy lady,” recalled Anderson, who has attended the parade since he was 5. “She would sell chips, candy and juices along the parade route. I was always out there with her setting up early and watching the parade.”

More information about the parade for performers, sponsors and parade-goers can be found at www.budbillikenparade.org.