With a reported one million attendees, it was bound to happen that neighborhood residents and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) would openly entertain the idea of moving the Chicago Pride Parade out of Boystown to downtown Chicago. That’s exactly what happened today as the openly gay alderman talked to CBS-affiliated WBBM Radio.
At the tail end of the parade, cleanup began. But some claimed to need cleaning up the next morning.
The clinking sounds of empty bottles and half-crushed aluminum beer and soda cans were heard Monday morning in a few locations as residents and small business owners swept up messes left behind from crowds “hanging out” after hours.
It’s a reminder of how immense the event has become. Two years ago, Tunney and Ald. James Cappleman (46th) helped orchestrate a route change to accommodate a crowd that outgrew its Boystown confines.
But is it enough of a change?
Tunney says residents have told him they’re concerned about public safety after the parade ends—going as far as saying that Lakeview residents don’t feel safe in their own neighborhood as the party atmosphere continues long into the night and early Monday morning hours.
“I’m very concerned about the safety of our neighborhood and our residents there,” Tunney told WBBM. “If there is an option to go downtown, will that make the conduct of the fans more reasonable? … I’m not afraid to look at it.”
Tunney has encountered such criticisms of the annual event in previous years. And each time, proponents of moving the event downtown argue it would allow an environment with better controls for large crowds in terms of public safety, public transportation, and cleanup by the Streets and Sanitation department.
A downtown venue like Columbus Dr. would offer wider space for groups marching in the parade. It would also be nowhere near the very residential areas that are raising a stink about their compromised safety.
Former HRC Chicago organizer Curtis Bumgarner-Cookson feels a move is overdue and has begun a petition campaign to get it done.
“Now that Chicago’s parade attracts over a million people, it only makes sense that Boystown no longer can contain it. Michigan Ave. or Columbus Dr. would be better venue choices as they give the LGBT community more exposure, and are more centrally located and accessible,” he said.
Bumgarner-Cookson addresses the concerns of Lakeview-area small business owners that sees a boost in spending activity during Pride events. He says they’re already drawing customers through Pride Fest—which grows in popularity and brings customers to the neighborhood.
“Yes, I’m aware that businesses rely on this parade, but isn’t that why Northalsted Business Alliance created Pride Fest on a separate weekend?”
LGBT events fundraiser and booster David S. Hackett is amenable to a venue change as a matter of improving the overall Pride experience.
“I think this might be worth a try. As the parade grows bigger, and the attendance grows, we might emulate New York City and embrace having a huge fest that would follow directly afterward somewhere in Grant Park,” he said.
Moving the parade is not a foregone conclusion. The event could vey well make a return to Boystown next year.
“We would take it under consideration,” Tunney, who is running for re-election against challenger small business owner Mark Thomas, said.
Chicago Police Department reported that eight arrests were made during the popular event, including an incident reported by Chicago Phoenix that involved damage to a parked police car.
The annual Chicago Pride Parade is a private project, coordinated by Richard Pfeiffer. With a tight-knit circle of organizers, Pfeiffer oversees applications for parade entries, volunteer and manpower coordination, and works with Tunney and Cappleman for city services like police, fire, public transportation, traffic control and cleanup.