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Updated 06/26/11 – 5:03 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) – Vandals who slashed the tires of 51 parade floats overnight couldn’t put a stop to the 42nd Annual Pride Parade on Sunday along Halsted Street on the North Side. Workers repaired most of the damage and the parade went on as planned.
Chicago police confirmed that someone punctured tires on several parade floats that were being stored at Associated Attractions Enterprises, Inc., a parade float business located in the 4800 block of South Halsted Street.
Owner Chuck Huser said all 51 floats being stored at the warehouse had two of their tires punctured overnight. He said organizers of the parade scrambled to replace as many tires as possible in time for the noon parade
In the end, repairs were made to all but three floats, they included Spin Nightclub and the Lambda legal fund, which lobbies for gay rights.
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Huser said his company makes more than 80 percent of the floats in the parade. He said that and his crews worked until about 8 p.m. Saturday at the warehouse and had finished the floats.
“We came here at 5 o’clock this morning to start pulling them out to get them to the 12 o’clock parade and we walked into our warehouse and we noticed all the floats were leaning to one side,” Huser said. “We looked and it was every single float had a knife hole in (two tires.)”
Police said that, as of Sunday afternoon, the vandalism was not being treated as a hate crime.
But Huser said he didn’t know what else to call it. Huser said he’s been in business for 36 years and this kind of vandalism has never happened before. He said there’s no doubt in his mind: he believes this was a hate crime.
The parade coordinator, Richard Pfeiffer, said he thinks it’s a hate crime, too.
“That’s my gut reaction, that it probably is.” Pfeiffer said. “Why would someone pick the night before the LGBT Pride Parade to do something like this?”
A spokesman for Police News Affairs said that, for now, it’s being investigated as criminal damage to property.
Chicago police could not immediately provide a crowd estimate, but organizers said turnout was similar to past parades, which drew crowds of about 400,000 people.
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Fernanda Rocha, the first lesbian cast member of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” is this year’s grand marshal.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn are among a host of elected officials planning to attend the parade this year.
And this year, the celebrations won’t only be along Halsted Street and Broadway. After the parade, a brand new Gay Pride festival will kick off in Rogers Park.
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In addition to the mayor and governor, an assortment of other elected officials – including aldermen, local elected officials, state lawmakers and members of Congress, participated in the parade.
New to the parade this year are the U.S. Peace Corps, the Chicago Teachers Union, and “Intactivists” from the anti-circumcision movement, according to the Chicago Tribune RedEye.
Organizers point out that alcohol consumption should not take place along the parade route, and anyone who brings coolers with alcoholic beverages is liable to get a costly ticket from police. But many bars along Halsted Street and Broadway are open for the parade.
City ordinance also forbids parade participants from tossing beads or other items to spectators, or for spectators tossing items back. Participants are also cautioned not to use high-powered squirt guns, as they could cause injuries.
While the party invariably goes on late into the night on Halsted Street after the parade, some revelers will head about four miles north to the Rogers Park neighborhood for the new Pride North festival.
From 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Pride North will take over Glenwood Avenue between Lunt and Morse avenues, right alongside the Red Line ‘L’ embankment. The cover band Sixteen Candles will be back for the festival, along with two DJs, Gay Chicago Magazine reported.
The magazine reported that Rogers Park has always been a neighborhood that has valued diversity, but was lacking in gay nightlife, which has long been concentrated in Boystown and Andersonville. But that has been changing lately with the revitalization of what is now being called the Glenwood Area Arts District, and the owners of new Glenwood Bar, 6962 N. Glenwood Ave., thought it was about time bring the festivities north, the magazine reported.
–WBBM Newsradio 780′s Steve Miller contributed to this report.