80th Bud Billiken parade steps off

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Twirling batons, blaring marching band horns and beating drums move past rows of enamored faces. Dancing dolls, and nimble and tumbling troupes go by families of spectators who pulled up lawnchairs or spread blankets out to take in the excitement.

Twirling batons, blaring marching band horns and beating drums move past rows of enamored faces. Dancing dolls, and nimble and tumbling troupes go by families of spectators who pulled up lawnchairs or spread blankets out to take in the excitement.

That is the spirit, pageantry and pride of the Bud Billiken Day Parade and Picnic, a community mainstay that has been rolling on the South Side since 1929.

The annual parade passed through the Bronzeville community Saturday.

It’s been 80 years since Chicago Defender founder Robert Sengstacke Abbott first started the Bud Billiken parade to celebrate the youth, especially the young men who helped to sell his newspaper.

Years later, the spirit of community and uplifting youth remains an integral part of what has become one of the most anticipated events of the summer–and the largest parade of its kind in the nation.

Retired Col. Eugene Scott, head of the Chicago Defender Charities, which puts on the parade each year, said the event is all about community, family and most of all, the children.

“They’re probably the most important element in the community,” Scott told the Defender, describing the importance of young people.

As Scott and his team of organizers worked over a six-month period to prepare for this year’s parade, the colonel said he and workers kept the youth in mind.

“It’s all about pride for them,” he said.

This year’s parade, which rolled down King Drive from 39th Street to 51st Street and into Washington Park, featured some 285 participants, Scott said.

Though that count was down from last year’s 320 participants, Scott said the slight drop only meant greater control over the event.

“(We) felt good about how the parade was managed and organized” this year, Scott said.

And stepping off as lead band for the parade this year was the King College Prep high school marching band.

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