Staying Safe at Chicago's Gay Pride Parade

It might feel like a lifetime away, but June 24th, the day of Chicago's Gay Pride Parade is coming up fast. The weather's improving,  and I know I'm not the only one ready for full on summer.  Personally, I've been ready for the month of June since December, and now that it's almost upon us, I feel compelled to give you a few thoughts on staying safe at this year's parade.

It gets super hot at Pride, and not just because of the sun beating down and the half naked guys and gals. It's always incredibly crowded, but two years ago, I remember it being so bad that there was no way to move around independently. The crowd literally just moved you along. Everything that follows is as a result of my own experiences.

  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Don't bring a lot of unnecessary items with you to the parade. Stick to the basics: ID, cash/ATM card, bus card, small tube of sunscreen, lip balm, phone, small camera.
  • Avoid using your back pockets. Use front pockets or wear cargo pants that have pockets you can reach from the front or sides, preferably with zippers.
  • Drink water. I cannot stress this enough. Beer is not water. If you aren't going to bring a bottle with you (and believe me, I understand not wanting to carry it around all day), then make sure you know where you can buy water in a pinch. There are a couple gas stations and convenience stores on and around the parade route, so there's no reason to not be hydrated.
  • In past years, there's been at least one cooling bus just off the parade route. Take advantage of it. Look for the parked CTA bus!
  • Dress accordingly. Flip flops are cute until someone steps on your toes, or you end up with your foot in a puddle of beer. Last year a piece of broken glass lodged itself in the bottom of my flip flop and almost cut my foot post-parade.
  • The Center On Halsted is not open on parade day, so don't expect to use it as a cooling center or a place to sit and rest.
  • If you're bringing kids to the parade, avoid bringing strollers. I'll say it again: DO NOT BRING STROLLERS. Three years ago, my friend Jay and I took our kids to the parade, and we each brought a stroller. It was not pretty. Jay ran across the street to use the ATM and wasn't able to make it back to my side of the street for over an hour, leaving me stranded on the corner, nervously protecting the two strollers with our babies in them.  Our kids are quite a bit older now and really don't need the strollers, but if you plan to bring kids, here are some better options:
  1. Baby backpacks and harnesses. Baby backpacks are great, because they can be used for the older set as well. Many come with a sunshade. I know some people don't like the harnesses, or "leashes," but you'll like it even less if you lose your kid in the crowd.
  2. Wagon. Wagons are bulky, but your kid will inevitably get tired, and this way he or she will get a chance to sit and rest. Added bonus: you don't have to carry all the extra stuff on your person. Water, stuffed animal, etc., can all go right into the wagon. Stick to the outskirts of the crowd. You'll still hear plenty of music and make tons of connections. Just be careful not to run over any toes.
  3. Get to the parade early, stake out a spot, and don't move. There are a couple places along the route that are significantly less populated as well, so this would also be a good option. If this is what you plan to do, then do yourself a favor and stop at the store to pick up water and snacks, because if you vacate your place temporarily, you probably won't get it back.
  • Bring hand sanitizer or Wet Ones, plus a travel pack of Cottenelle wipes (or similar). There are Porta Potties for you to use, but they're usually stinking, filthy, and hot. They also don't always have toilet paper. 'Nuff said.
  • If you're going with a group, then agree on a meeting place and exchange phone numbers. It's easy to get separated.
  • The parade starts at noon, but it's always a good idea to arrive early, whether or not you're bringing kids.

Check back throughout the months of May and June for more parade and Pride event information.

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