81st Bud Billiken parade still a family, community favorite

Those who attended the 81st Annual Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic Saturday said it lived up to its reputation as being fun and exciting.

Those who attended the 81st Annual Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic Saturday said it lived up to its reputation as being fun and exciting. The parade began at 35th Street and King Drive and ended at Washington Park at 51st Street and King Drive where an all-day family-style picnic concluded the parade. Children of all ages lined the parade route as the first float stepped off at 10 a.m. The smiles and bubbly eyes the children displayed certified their satisfaction with this year’s parade. Billed as a event celebrating youth and education, adults were also seen Saturday getting into the “groove” as they snapped their fingers, stomped their feet and moved their heads to the sounds and beats of the marching bands, floats with blaring music and others.  “It was wonderfully entertaining,” said Gilisa Brown, 40. “It brings family and friends together.” Last year’s parade boasted 75,000 participants and recorded 1.5 million people in attendance while over 25 million watched it on TV, according to the Chicago Defender Charities Inc., which was been hosting the event since 1990. Live appearances from entertainers are often a big attraction for the parade. This year’s entertainment roster included actor and singer Tyrese Gibson and actor Lamman Rucker, who stars in the TV show “Meet the Browns.” The mercury was up – at or just over 90 degrees – as attendance was slightly down at this year’s parade compared to last year’s. The Chicago Defender Charities, which produces the annual parade, said 800,000 people are estimated to have attended this year and another 26 million watched it at home on TV. WGN-TV Ch. 9 and ABC7 Chicago Ch. 7 broadcast the parade live. Michael Brown, parade coordinator for the Chicago Defender Charities, said the hot weather might have made people opt to watch the parade on TV rather than make their way out to Washington Park. For its part, Brown said the parade’s mission has not changed since its 1929 inception when Robert S. Abbott, who founded the Chicago Defender, started it. “Education has and always will remain the focus of the parade,” Brown told the Defender. The theme for this year’s Bud Billiken Parade was Education: It’s the American Way. Rucker, who rode on the WCIU-TV float, shouted from the float “I love Chicago” and encouraged the crowd to get into the “groove” of things. It was that kind of excitement that moved L’Tanya Williams, who grew up in Chicago but now lives in Fitchburg, Mass. where she said no such parade exist. Her 10-year-old daughter, Pamela, who had accompanied her to Chicago to attend a family reunion, experienced the parade for the first time. “This was her first time coming to Bud Billiken and I am glad I brought her,” Williams said. “Back home there are very few Blacks and definitely no parades like Bud Billiken.” The youngster said one thing she really likes about the parade was the cheerleaders. “When I go to high school I want to be a cheerleader and seeing all the cheerleaders do stunts was really cool,” she told the Defender. “My mom talks about what it was like growing up in Chicago all the time and now I see what she means when she says it was a fun place to be.” Marian Spikes-Mecreggett, 46, has lived in Chicago for only four years and this was the first year she attended the parade. “I normally watch it on TV but now I am glad I came to see it in person,” said Spikes-Mecreggett, an administrator at George H. Corliss High School on the South Side. I also got a chance to see a lot of public figures I never saw in person.” But not everyone gave this year’s parade a thumbs up. Dexter Woods, 41, has lived in the Bronzeville community for 40 years. He said there used to be a time when kids could sit on the curb to watch the parade and would run out to the floats to touch the participants and receive such things as candy and school supplies. “Now everything is so political. They don’t give the shorties nothing,” said Woods. “Enthusiasm for the parade is no longer there – is gone.” The history of the Bud Billiken Parade goes back to a time when race tensions were high between Blacks and whites. Chicago Defender newspaper founder Robert S. Abbott wanted a way to highlight the youth who sold his weekly newspaper. According to the Chicago Defender Charities, what began as Abbott’s wish to celebrate his paperboys has since mushroomed into the largest parade of its kind in the United States. The Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic is held every second Saturday in August and is also meant to help students look forward to the new school year. Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender

Photo: Courtesy of Disney

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