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Huge crowds in Lake View cheer for Pride Parade

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Updated: August 23, 2012 9:54AM

An estimated 850,000 people turned out Sunday afternoon to watch everyone from the governor to sequined disco dancers march in the Pride Parade.

The LGBT community’s biggest social and political event of the year drew crowds up to eight people deep along both sides of Halsted, Belmont and Broadway in Lake View.
With nearly 200 floats or marching groups, it was the usual collision of wild and crazy with the corporate and political.

Line-dancing cowboys, a lesbian motorcycle club gunning their Harleys and a float of men dressed as nuns alternated with a who’s who of city, county and state politicians. Mixed in were company floats such as Sears, Google, Walgreens, American Airlines — and most popular of all — a Frito-Lay truck throwing bags of Cheetos and Cool Ranch Doritos.

Just before Gov. Pat Quinn joined the marchers, he talked about something on the minds of many at the parade — the momentum that is occurring in favor of marriage equality.

“There have been hundreds and hundreds of civil unions in almost every county in our state. I think that’s a good step. I think there are more steps to take,” Quinn said.

“I think marriage equality is something that we’re going to get in Illinois. It’s going to maybe take a little while, but I think it’s important to move forward.”

The parade came a little more than a month after President Barack Obama came out in favor of gay marriage.

A block-long contingent of Obama supporters drew loud cheers from the throngs.

Billy Crowe, 33, of Valparaiso, Ind., was attending his fourth Pride Parade. “Everyone is so excited about Obama backing marriage,” he said.

Mayor Rahm Emmanuel worked the crowd as he headed to join the parade, kissing a baby and running back and forth between barricades to shake hands.

Many floats touted serious issues such as equal marriage and AIDS, but others, such as the float for Roscoe’s tavern, were pure fun. The tall float was covered in red and silver sequins and disco balls glinting in the summer sunshine. Scantily clan dancers dressed in silver boogied on the top.

The weather was favorable, and police reported no major problems. The fire department received 104 calls for help and 34 people were transported to hospitals.

Last year parade organizers and Lake View residents were overwhelmed when three-quarters of a million people jammed into the neighborhood for the parade. People up and down the lakefront have taken to hosting parties for friends who come to watch the parade.

A new longer parade route this year spread the crowds out more.

The parade started further north, at Montrose and Broadway, continued south on Halsted, picked up Broadway again at Belmont, then headed toward east on Diversey to Cannon Drive in Lincoln Park.

Richard Pfeiffer, a coordinator for Pride Chicago, said the new route affords more room for people to watch the colorful floats. “We’re thrilled with the new parade route,” Pfeiffer said, adding that with all the gains for the gay and lesbian community nationally, the parade has a lot to showcase.

“This is both a political event and a social event,” he said.

Emily Clift, 20, a fashion design major at Columbia College marched with her school and handed out condoms. “This parade is important for gay kids to know that it’s OK to be who you are.”

Angela Pasha skated the parade route in black shorts and tights and a yellow shirt with fellow members of the Chicago Outfit Roller Derby League, which she called a “queer friendly” group.

“We’re here to support everybody,’ Pasha said. “Wear whatever you want, live however you want, love whoever you want.”

Among the spectators was Doyal Turner, 39, who recently moved to suburban Romeoville from Florida to join his partner David Burgess, 43. This was their first Pride Parade together. Asked what the day means to him, Turner said: “Showing people we’re proud of who we are.”

Jose and Lisa Aguilar, married and both 47 from Munster, Ind., came to the parade with their son and daughter. Their daughter, 19, is gay was there with her girlfriend “who we love,” said Lisa Aguilar. For the Aguilars, going to Pride is more than just celebrating the identity of their daughter. Lisa Aguilar said as a parent, teaching her kids about acceptance has always been a priority.

“Everyone should be able to love who they want to love,” she said. “And we raised our children that way.”
Contributing: Abdon M. Pallasch

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