For Chicago’s proud gay community, parade celebrates city’s inclusivity
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Thousands of marchers and spectators decked out in rainbow colors, balloons, feathers and beads descended on Lake View Sunday to celebrate LGBTQ equality at Chicago’s 49th annual Pride Parade. Excited woos and music mingled in the air and smiles were strewn seemingly on everyone.
This year, 150 registered entries took part in the parade, ranging from LGBTQ community organizations, businesses, performing arts ensembles, welcoming churches, marching bands and elected officials and candidates for office. The parade caps off Chicago’s June Pride Month each year.
The parade stepped off at North Broadway Ave. and West Montrose Ave. at noon and made its way south on Broadway to North Halsted St. in Boystown. From there, the parade made its way down Halsted, turned east on Belmont Ave and continued south eventually ending up in Lincoln Park.
Leading the pack of Pride-goers was this year’s grand marshal, Orlando “El Fenomeno” Cruz, the world’s first openly gay active professional boxer and winner of the World Boxing Organizational Featherweight Title in 2016.
“Pride is where we can feel free and supported,” said Sarah Weidmann, who had come to watch with her wife, Ruth, her mother and her young daughter.
The Chicago Pride Parade was the first in the nation — stepping off in 1970 to mark the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots — when patrons at a gay bar decided to fight back during a usual police raid and shakedown in New York City’s Greenwich Village on June 28, 1969.
“Pride to me … it’s a reminder that we’re able to be ourselves,” said Steven Acosta, a parade participant with MB Financial Bank. “Who we are today is not who we were years in the past.”
For some, it was their first time attending the festivities, while others said they have been celebrating the Chicago tradition for decades.
Alejandro Figueroa and his boyfriend, Mark Schmieding, were celebrating their second Pride Parade together. For them, the parade celebrates the inclusivity of the city.
“You have the right to be who you are. Nobody can blame you for that. And we are celebrating that,” Figueroa said.
Thomas Ayala strutted and spun in a garish, sequined outfit. Ayala, 49, said he had been a part of this celebration for the past two decades.
“It’s about people,” Ayala said. “And there is a lot of gay pride in people in Chicago.”
On the other hand, 20-year-old Sabrina Milon was attending her first parade — and attributed that to her two best friends.
“My two best friends are together and they’re gay, but I love them so much and I see the love between them and it kind of just inspired me that, you know what, love has no boundaries,” the Chicago native said. “It’s whatever you feel between a person, and honestly that’s what it means to me. I’m doing it for them.”
Some showed up to support close family or friends who are members of the LGBTQ community as straight allies. One such person was Belinda Norris, who said she was here for the first time for her gay nephew Joe.
“It’s good that everyone is recognized for who they are,” Norris said. “Straight, gay or otherwise.”