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Behind the Scenes at the Bud Billiken Parade

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 15, 2011 4:00PM

The Bud Billiken Parade has come a long way in the 82 years since Chicago Defender publisher Robert Sengstacke Abbott and David Kellum first conceived of the idea.

Bud Billiken was a fictional character that grew from the charm dolls created by St. Louis artist Florence Pretz. Abbott created the "Bud Billiken" in 1923 as a mascot for the youth section of the Defender. Some of the early Bud Billiken columns were written by Defender reporter Willard Motley, who later became a novelist. Bud Billiken came to become a symbol of pride among local blacks.

Kellum first proposed the parade to be a "unity in diversity for the children of Chicago." Today, it attracts beauty queens, entertainers, politicians and others. Mayor Rahm Emanuel was this year's grand marshal of the parade, while R. Kelly served as an honorary grand marshal. It also heralds an unofficial end to summer and the beginning of the school year.