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Bud Billiken Parade: ‘All of Chicago is out watching this’

Kenwood Academy High School Marching Bcheerleader Brshay Johnsleads her group during Bud Billiken Parade King Dr. Saturday August 11 2012

Kenwood Academy High School Marching Band cheerleader Brshay Johnson leads her group during the Bud Billiken Parade on King Dr. Saturday, August 11, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 13, 2012 6:25AM

It’s the third Bud Billiken Parade she’s marched in, but Annesa Hampton said she still loves making the trip.

“All of Chicago is out watching this. It’s just a great experience,” said Hampton, 17, who captains the flag team at Proviso West High School in Hillside.

Sipping a Coke in the shade Saturday after finishing the annual back-to-school event with her 13-member squad, Hampton said she didn’t even mind walking the 2-mile route on a gorgeously sunny day.

“It’s longer than usual for us, but it doesn’t seem like it because we’re having so much fun,” said Hampton, a senior.

Thousands of spectators lined the South Side parade down Martin Luther King Drive from 39th Street to its finishing point in Washington Park, cheering as bands, floats and community groups streamed by.

But Antwan Turpeau didn’t have to leave his front porch on King Drive to give his 2-month-old-son his first look at the Chicago tradition.

Clad in a blue sleeper, Josiah never batted an eye as blaring bands trooped by the youngster and his dad.

“I know he’s going to be marching in this one day,” said Turpeau, nodding toward the parade. “I know he’ll be doing something special with his life.”

Turpeau said the parade seems to bring the community together.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a wonderful, safe afternoon,” he said.

After marching in the parade, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the event “essential” to inspiring young people to realize the importance of getting an education.

“This parade is essential, no doubt about it,” the mayor said. “But you cannot get an education just because you came out one day on a parade. You have to learn the value and importance of an education every day.”

Emanuel used the opportunity to tout his efforts to lengthen the school year by 10 days and add more than an hour of daily instructional time, but said the responsibility for emphasizing education extends to everyone.

“I don’t want anybody to think a parent, a pastor, a principal, a teacher, a mayor — you get a pass when it comes to the education of our children,” Emanuel said. “All of us are accountable to putting them first.”

Some spectators said the parade is a tradition they just don’t miss.

Hampton’s aunt, Yvonne Baldwin of Chicago, said she’s attended the parade annually for more than 30 years — and this year brought along two nieces and her granddaughter.

“It does the kids good to see positive role models,” Baldwin said, as a contingent of Illinois State Police marched past. “I look forward to this parade. If I have to work, I get the day off.”

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