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Lake View braces for huge crowds at Pride Parade

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Updated: July 25, 2012 6:42AM

The Pride Parade is a victim of its own success.

What started in 1970 as just a few die-hard activists marching for fair treatment grew into a social event that attracted not just gays and lesbians but their straight family and friends; politicians looking for gay votes and business owners looking for gay clients.

Last year parade organizers and residents of the Lake View neighborhood were overwhelmed when three-quarters of a million people jammed into the neighborhood for the parade.

“I’ve been coming to this parade for years and last year was the first year I remember seeing not one square foot of sidewalk that was not occupied,” said State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago. “A lot of people come to support their family and friends and since more people are out than ever, you get that many more people coming down.”

City officials and parade organizers sat down and mapped out a new route that will start at noon Sunday in Uptown at Montrose and Broadway and head down to Diversey and Cannon Drive.

“The old parade route went in a circle — this is more of a straight line,” said Parade Coordinator Richard Pfeiffer. “And police will be ticketing people who are excessively drinking.”

People up and down the lakefront have taken to hosting parties for friends who come to watch the parade. Organizers hope the crowds this year will be a little more spread out than last.

Fear of possible thunderstorms or 85-degree heat may keep some people away.

Since last year, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been repealed and a new group of gay sailors has formed at the Great Lakes Naval Base. They will march in this year’s parade, Pfeiffer said.

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