Broadway In Chicago has enjoyed participating in the Chicago Annual Pride Parade for a number of years. This popular event, attended by more than 450,000 people, is always one of the highlights of our year, but it can come as quite a shock to unsuspecting “Pride Virgins.” The crowd, couture and calidity can come as a surprise to anyone who has not experienced Pride in all of its glory. It’s a test of endurance – nearly 3 ½ miles – but one that Broadway In Chicago is thrilled to undertake each year.
This year’s float featured BILLY ELLIOT, SHREK THE MUSICAL, FUERZA BRUTA: LOOK UP, DISNEY’S THE LION KING, TRACES,WICKED, HAIR and NOT WANTED ON THE VOYAGE. Here are a few observational notes from this year’s Pride Virgins.
NICCI (Marketing Department, Broadway In Chicago): I approached the float Sunday morning when I realized: I had never been to Pride. I’ve been near it. I lived in the heart of Boystown for two years, right off the parade route. I’ve celebrated with a group of boys who were drunk with pride (or just drunk) and had managed to find their way into my apartment. (I also found out that my front door lock was busted that day.) I love my gay friends and encourage them to celebrate their pride every day. So it was a shock to me when I realized that in five years of living in Chicago, I still had never seen the parade or witnessed what Boystown had to offer during its biggest holiday.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pretty sure it involved lots of glitter. And it did. Not just on the floats, but also on the revelers. I applauded the drag queens, who were dressed to the nines, as if they didn’t even realize that it was 150 degrees outside. I sweated through my BILLY ELLIOT rainbow-colored sticker and, ready to turn my leggings into cutoffs, saw someone in full Elizabethan costume!
At first, I felt a little silly handing out dog tags and whoopee cushions while dancing to Broadway tunes (not my usual music choice), but two blocks later, I was belting “Defying Gravity” and shaking it to “Hair” like I knew the words. I knew that I’d have the chance to sit down, but there was too much fun to be had in the crowd. I wasn’t even aware that my arms were being slow-roasted to a nice medium-well until the parade was over.
Overall, I wasn’t surprised by the noise or the grandeur of the parade. I was overwhelmed by the camaraderie. In a city where everyone keeps to themselves normally, we were talking to everybody. I literally dropped my purse to help another float hang banners. The float across the street lent us a staple gun. I never once felt shy or awkward; I felt welcomed. The Pride Parade was the best party I have ever been to, and I didn’t even know anybody there! I’ll always look back at my first Pride fondly (unless this sticker-shaped tan line on my arm never goes away).
STEVE (Marketing Director, NOT WANTED ON THE VOYAGE): Goodness. After a morning of torrential downpours, my hopes were low for the day of this parade. With raincoat in hand and sunscreen nowhere to be seen, I left the house expecting that even this long-running Chicago tradition might not make it through the rain. I was about as wrong as could be. What followed was a day of endless sunshine, dog tag crazy fans, cut-off t-shirts and tan lines that we will be visible for weeks. Thank you Chicago for letting your “Freak Flag Fly” and embracing us so warmly.
KOKO (Marketing & Communications Manager, Northwestern University): Thanks to everyone at Broadway in Chicago for hosting us on the float. It was such a fun day! Of course, my neck is sore from flipping my hair to the music, I have a bruise the size of an orange on my arm and gravel in my knee from when I wiped out and I look like a tomato…but I wouldn’t trade any of those things! 🙂
JUSTIN (Marketing Team, NOT WANTED ON THE VOYAGE): This was the first time I’ve ever been to a Pride Parade so I had no idea what to expect. What an amazing experience it was to interact with thousands of happy people sharing so much love (never have so many people wanted to hug and kiss me since I was a baby!). My favorite moment was dancing along the street and seeing so many people singing along to the songs blasted by Broadway In Chicago (there are more theatre enthusiasts than you might think)! Singing showtunes and dancing down Chicago streets is something you can’t do everyday…let’s change that!
Thanks for everything PRIDEChicago. We’ll see you again next year!