Changes on Tap for Gay Pride Parade

The city will change the route, start time and even the size of Chicago's second-largest parade

By Natalie Martinez and Lisa Balde
|  Wednesday, Oct 5, 2011  |  Updated 8:54 PM CDT
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Organizers hope new route, other changes will alleviate problems that have developed in recent years.

Organizers hope new route, other changes will alleviate problems that have developed in recent years.

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Chicago's annual Gay Pride Parade is getting a makeover next year in hopes of curbing public drinking and accommodating large Boystown crowds.

The city will change the route, start time and even the size of Chicago's second-largest parade to maintain its neighborhood appeal and keep it safe, aldermen say.

Instead of a noon start time, for example, the parade will step off next June at 10 a.m. It's meant to stave off heavy drinking that drew complaints this summer.

The number of participants also will be reduced from 250 to 200 to shorten the parade, but the route will be extended to 22 blocks to stagger crowds and add two CTA stations to accommodate them.

Crowds have doubled in the past three years, with at least 800,000 showing up this June. And it's expected to keep rising.   

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) told the Chicago Sun-Times the parade remains a celebration of the community's history and rights. Tunney said it has outgrown its size, though, and he wants to keep it safe.

Some neighbors complained the usual route made it difficult for them to get home and that it cut off access to emergency vehicles.

For the first time, the parade will begin at Montrose and Broadway instead of Belmont and Halsted. The parade then heads south on Broadway to Halsted, east on Belmont, south on Broadway and east on Diversey. 

This isn't the first large Chicago parade to see changes.

In 2009, the South Side Irish Parade was canceled after more than 300,000 revelers lined the streets and 54 people were arrested for public drinking and fighting. 

Following the arrests, parade committee members said they worried the hundreds of thousands who descend on Beverly had become too much to handle and the event had lost its roots as a family-friendly festival.

In August, a group of about 50 people discussed the possibility of resurrecting a more sober version of the parade on a one-year trial basis in 2012.

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