Tunney Tests Moving Pride Parade Out Of Boystown

By Tony Peregrin in News on Jul 2, 2014 3:00PM

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(Clean Up/Ken Ilio)

In a move that some say could dim the sparkle and shine of Chicago’s Pride Parade, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) told WBBM Newsradio listeners June 30 that he “is not afraid” to explore other route options for the parade, which this year attracted over 1 million spectators. In a follow-up interview with the Windy City Times Tuesday, Tunney tried to clarify his remarks stating, “I’m not saying ‘yes’ and I’m not saying ‘no,’ about a potential change of venue.

Although there were relatively few arrests at this year’s parade—eight in total—Tunney said Lakeview residents have complained to his office about the “alcohol and partying all night long,” and that a way to curb post-parade activity may be to move the parade.

Opposition to moving the parade has been relatively small thus far. There’s a petition on Change.org titled “Don’t Move the Chicago Pride Parade, No to Homophobia and Racism” that has a 127 electronic signatures as of this morning. The petition urges potential signers not to “ignore our history and give in to an attitude that should have been stopped a long time ago.”

Art Johnson, owner of Sidetrack, said the Pride Parade should stay in Boystown, telling the Windy City Times that “geography is important” for retaining the history and character of the parade, and that a new venue would ultimately be “the end of the parade.”

Boystown bars and businesses depend on the annual parade (held every year on the last Sunday in June) to attract patrons and customers, including out of town travelers, but is the neighborhood equipped to handle the challenges posed by a million people, some inebriated, many looking for a way to keep the partying going after the parade ends mid-afternoon?

Ideas for remixing the Chicago Pride Parade have been bouncing around social media for years, and here are a few of our favorites—each fabulous but flawed in one way or another:

Wrigleyville: Rework the parade route so that it leads from Boystown to Wrigleyville. It would keep part of the parade in Boystown and spectators could party at Wrigley Field at a post-Pride concert. (Paging Laura M. Ricketts, co-owner of the Cubs, and the first openly gay owner of a major-league sports franchise.)

Change neighborhoods every year: In an effort to foster visibility, the Chicago Dyke March has marched in Pilsen, South Shore, Uptown, and this year, in Humboldt Park. Maybe the Chicago Pride Parade could follow suit, and like a magical Pied Piper, draw LGBTs and supporters to unusual, atypical, magnificent pockets of this city.

Downtown: Michigan or Columbus Avenue have been suggested as possible parade route venues for several years, most recently by Tunney, with perhaps a Pride Parade closing party featuring DJs, performers, and dancers at Millennium Park to offer revelers something to do after the parade. This year, Matthew Harvart, “Circuit Mom,” introduced a new mixed indoor/outdoor post-parade party at the Chicago History Museum—and we’d love to see what he could do at Millennium Park.

Notably, San Francisco and New York City’s pride parade happen at locations away from the gayborhoods. In San Francisco, the “SF Pride Celebration” draws spectators to the Civic Center at the foot of the city’s historic City Hall where performers, singers and comedians entertain the crowds on multiple stages. In New York City, just a few blocks from the end of the parade route is PrideFest and the popular” Dance on the Pier” event at Pier 26 in Tribeca.

“We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it,” is a gay pride parade chant popularized by Queer Nation (yes, they are still around). In Chicago—with a million supporters at the parade—it is starting to feel like people are, indeed, getting used to the idea that we’re here, which is outstanding! Now, we just have to figure out where the hell “here” is going to be.