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CHICAGO (CBS) — As you’ve no doubt heard by now, big changes are in store for the Gay Pride Parade this Sunday – and organizers are urging spectators to camp out on the new Uptown leg of the route.
The parade steps off at noon Sunday. And while the huge rainbow pride flag is still hanging majestically from the Spin nightclub building at Belmont Avenue and Halsted Street, the parade won’t be starting there this year.
The new route starts at the intersection of Broadway and Montrose Avenue in Uptown, 0.75 miles from the north end of the Halsted Street Boystown strip. The parade will continue southeast on Broadway to Halsted Street, and head south down the Boystown strip to Belmont Avenue.
Then the parade will head east for two blocks on Belmont and return to Broadway, where it will resume its traditional route and head south on Broadway and east on Diversey Parkway.
The change means an increase of five blocks in the total length of the route. That will give spectators a bit more room to spread out.
Speaking on the CBS 2 Morning News Friday, parade organizer Richard Pfeiffer urged spectators to head to Uptown.
“We’re urging people to go to the northern end of the parade route – preferably from about 4000 to about 4300 north on Broadway — to watch the parade,” Pfeiffer said. “It will be a lot more comfortable. You can put out chairs and be a lot more comfortable up there, rather than on the Halsted Street strip, where it gets little bit crowded where all the clubs are.”
In addition, the new route will provide better access to the parade via the Chicago Transit Authority ‘L’ system, Pfeiffer said.
“We’re also adding more elevated stops – last year, in fact the Belmont elevated Red Line stop was closed down because so many people were coming to that stop, so we’ve added more elevated stops,” Pfeiffer said.
The Wilson, Sheridan and Addison Red Line stops are also all in close proximity to the parade route, as are the Wellington and Diversey Brown Line stops.
Uptown is welcoming the parade with open arms. Many businesses are giving out “Uptown Proud” rainbow pride flags, and several businesses are opening early nd offering discounts.
Spoil Me Salon at Broadway and Leland Avenue is giving out 20 percent discounts for those who mention Pride anytime through Sunday, SoFo Tap at 4923 N. Clark St. is hosting the United Airlines GLBT Pride Party on Saturday night and a post-parade party on Sunday afternoon, and Crew at 4804 N. Broadway is serving brunch until 3 p.m. for paradegoers, according to Uptown Update.
Besides changing the route, organizers have cut back the number of entries in the parade from 250 to 200. Meanwhile, police will be cracking down on the commonplace problem of public drinking by spectators.
“The police, like for many city events, will be issuing tickets to people who are excessively drinking,” Pfeiffer said. “We want to make it a safe event; an event where people are comfortable.”
Staging for parade floats and other entries will also be in a new location. Historically, floats lined up on Halsted Street and Wellington Avenue, near Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. But now, they will line up on Broadway between Montrose and Wilson avenues, and Montrose Avenue between Broadway and Sheridan Road.
The old route sent the parade north on Halsted from Belmont to the street’s terminus at Broadway and Grace Street. The parade then made a turn of more than 135 degrees to head southeast on Broadway to Diversey Parkway, and finally east on Diversey to Cannon Drive.
In addition to adding two blocks of Belmont Avenue and the more than half a mile through Uptown, the new route also eliminates one section – Broadway between Grace Street and Belmont Avenue. On that stretch, huge crowds have traditionally gathered in the parking lot of the Treasure Island grocery store at 3460 N. Broadway, at the mouth of several east-west cross streets, and on rooftops, to watch the parade.
Back in the early days of the parade during the 1970s, the gay community was largely concentrated the area then known as New Town, which included the Boystown strip on Halsted Street and extended south to Diversey Parkway, Clark Street and Broadway – an intersection through which the parade still passes today.
But while Boystown remains the city’s most iconic gay business and nightlife district, the city’s gay community has since spread to several other north lakefront neighborhoods – including Uptown, Edgewater, Andersonville and Rogers Park.
While it’s far away from the parade route, Rogers Park is hosting a gay pride celebration on Sunday too. For the second year, Pride North will be held on Glenwood Avenue between Morse and Lunt avenues from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., with multiple music performances and dancing in the streets.
The grand marshal for the parade this year is Evan Wolfson, president of the nationwide Freedom to Marry campaign and the former marriage project director for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.