(credit: Jonathan Mathias / http://www.jonathanmathias.com)

Sunday, June 26th
12 Noon
Starts at Halsted & Belmont, goes North on Halsted, South on Broadway, then East on Diversey to Cannon Drive in Lincoln Park.

With almost half a million attendees, the Chicago Pride Parade is one of the biggest in the country. Come show your support for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community at the parade this year in the only manner acceptable: by having fun.

Parade Route

(credit: Jonathan Mathias / http://www.jonathanmathias.com)

Cool Stuff

Grand Marshall this year is Fernanda Rocha of The Real Housewives of Orange County fame. As a beautiful, Brazilian Lesbian who is both strong and open, she’ll serve as a great Grand Marshall.

See who else is marching in the parade this year by checking out the full marching orders list at www.chicagopridecalendar.org. Notice who’s first: Mayor Emanuel himself. Fifth in line is Governor Quinn (thanks for signing that bill legalizing civil unions, Pat!). Keep your eyes open for the 32nd spot to see the Chicago Cubs’ van. Other notables include the B96 Radio Float, which will be kicking out the jams (do people still call music “jams” nowadays?), and the Chicago Botanic Garden trolley, which is sure to be green. And don’t forget to show your respect for wonderful organizations like the Chicago Gay Hockey Association car, the Howard Brown Health Center truck, and the Chicago Bisexual/Queer Community truck.

How to Get There

(credit: Jonathan Mathias / http://www.jonathanmathias.com)

The area around the parade will be packed. Plus, many of the streets will be closed down from traffic, so it’s highly suggested you take public transportation. The closest train stop is the Belmot Red / Brown line. The Addison, Belmont, Diversey, Sheridan, Broadway and Halsted CTA buses will all be running and are viable options, but beware, they’re rerouted near the parade-grounds. There are no Metra stops particularly close to the start of the parade, so it would be advisable to take the Metra downtown where you can easily take a CTA train North to the Belmont station. Drive if ya want, but I reserve the right to say, “I told ya so,” as you sit stuck in traffic.

(credit: Jonathan Mathias / http://www.jonathanmathias.com)

What to Bring

Water and sunscreen should be at the top of your list, higher even than alcohol, especially since alcohol apparently isn’t allowed. So, to reiterate: don’t bring any. And certainly, whatever you do, don’t share it with me. Also, don’t bring any water guns. Not even Super Soakers. In fact, there’s a whole list of tips (that sound more like rules, if ya ask me) that tells you what not to bring, you can read them here.

(credit: Jonathan Mathias / http://www.jonathanmathias.com)

Where to Watch

First off, keep in mind that the streets are barricaded. Lay out on the sidewalk all you want, but avoid going into the streets while the parade goes on. Unless you’re a ninja, then you can do whatever you want. Even if you are, I still don’t suggest it.

Don’t just choose the beginning of the parade route to set your butt down either. With over four hundred thousand people in attendance, you’ll want to find a good spot away from the main crowd to enjoy the parade. Diversey Parkway, near the end of the parade, would be a nice spot to be able to spread out. Or even just North of Diversey on Broadway would work. Both of these spots would undoubtedly be less crowded than Halsted and Belmont. Whatever you do, don’t try to sneak a peak at the parade from the assembly area, which is South of Belmont on Halsted. You’ll just get yourself yelled at by police and parade marshals. Nobody wants to get yelled at on one of the happiest days of the year. Where will I be sitting? That’s something I won’t reveal. But! If you see a pale dude lounging in a small, plastic kiddie pool, don’t be surprised if that’s me. It’s not something I do for the parade though, Just something I do, well, every day. Maybe I’ll see you there!

It’s Pretty Good (It Gets Better)

(credit: Jonathan Mathias / http://www.jonathanmathias.com)

With the legalization of same-sex civil unions in Illinois, there’s a lot to celebrate this year. There’s still a long ways to go down the parade road of change though (pun only slightly intended). Civil unions are nice, but they’re not marriages. More worrying, are the prevalent anti-gay sentiments that affect our youth. While you can’t necessarily stand for this, you can’t let the negatives way you down either. I suggest you go to the parade and have a good time. Fight the negativity by having fun. And take that fun with you – have a parade every day. Not literally, obviously, but allow the positive sentiments swimming amongst the crowd at Pride to follow you throughout the year. To propel you forward, not allowing anything to get in your way. This isn’t the only way to fight hate, but it’s definitely the most enjoyable way. So go out there and enjoy yourselves.

Mason Johnson, CBS Local Chicago

Photos provided by Jonathan Mathias