Thousands cheer on Chicago’s Pride Parade despite rain

Rain showers didn’t dampen festive spirits as the 52nd annual parade made its way through North Side neighborhoods. Extra police were on hand, but no incidents were reported.

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Chicago 52nd Pride Parade North Side 2023

Parade participants with BP hold up large balloon letters that spell “pride” during the 52nd annual Pride Parade on the North Side on Sunday.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A brief downpour could not dampen the soaring spirits of thousands who showed up Sunday for Chicago’s annual Pride Parade.

Even during the brief shower, spectators danced, cheered, sang and smiled — and the mood stayed light, positive and upbeat over the course of the three-hour celebration.

“Even though we’re all strangers, it feels like one huge family coming together,” Lex Rybicki said.

Chicago Pride Parade 52nd 2023 route paradegoers

A rain shower began just after the parade kicked off. Some spectators shared umbrellas. Others ran into nearby businesses. But it didn’t put a damper on the mood.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Rybicki, 28, has been attending the parades on and off for 11 years. For her, the parade represents freedom.

Spectators flocked to North Broadway and Montrose Avenue to view the 52nd annual parade. To escape the heat, many people fanned themselves to stay cool as a marching band played.

When the rain started shortly after the parade kicked off, spectators ran for cover or shared umbrellas. Some went into a nearby restaurant.

Chicago 52nd Pride Parade 2023

Parade participants march in the 52nd annual Pride Parade on the North Side as spectators watch from apartment balconies above.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Marchers were handing out pencils, rubber stress balls, cup holders, bags of candy, pride flags and beads. Others were seen singing, blowing kisses and high-fiving spectators.

Mayor Brandon Johnson and Gov. J.B. Pritzker were in the parade. Members of the Chicago Teachers Union rode on motorbikes, leading to a “teachers” chant from the crowd.

A woman wearing a black “free mom hugs” shirt embraced onlookers who had their arms outstretched, and smiling children doused spectators from a squirt gun.

The crowd also sang Cascada’s “Everytime We Touch” in unison as it blared from one of the parade floats.

The streets were closed, and police had added extra patrols for the event. One officer was seen laughing with spectators. Residents along the parade route watched from apartment windows above.

Lex Rybicki Kevin Lin rainbow flag 52nd Chicago Pride Parade 2023

Lex Rybicki wraps a pride flag around her partner, Kevin Lin, near the starting point of the parade. “Even though we’re all strangers, it feels like one huge family coming together,” she said.

Mohammad Samra / Chicago Sun-Times

Lalo Nuñez has attended the parade for nearly a decade. He says “his whole family is LGBTQ, and he is there for them.”

“I had a friend that passed away, and this is the first year that she’s not here, and she would want me to be here,” Nuñez said.

Allie, who didn’t provide her last name, has been attending the parades since the early 1990s. She said parades today “are a lot calmer” than the ones she’d attended in Boystown, where she lived.

mayor office marchers 52nd Chicago Pride Parade 2023

Representatives from the mayor’s office march in the 52nd annual Pride Parade on the North Side. Security concerns were high after recent spikes in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, but there were no reports of any incidents.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

“It’s nice that today there are a lot more different types of people out there,” she said.

The parade, which runs through the Uptown, Northalsted and Lincoln Park communities, commemorates the 1969 uprising after police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York. The event was pivotal in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States.

The parade returned for a second straight year after cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

Security concerns were high as anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment has been on the rise nationally. Interim Chicago Police Supt. Fred Waller outlined safety plans for the parade late last week, saying there would be additional officers and command posts in place.

More experienced officers were assigned to work after the parade and into Sunday night, and undercover officers were stationed in the crowds throughout the day, Waller said.

Bikes and Mics 52nd Chicago Pride Parade 2023

Riders with Bikes and Mics take part in the 52nd annual Pride Parade on the North Side.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Officers’ days off were canceled to ensure the department had enough police to monitor the parade and other activities in the city, and the department’s counterterrorism unit was monitoring for potential threats directed toward the parade or the LGBTQ+ community in general.

“We want to be accepted, we want to be welcomed, we want to be loved,” Rybicki said.

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