Family tradition continued at 79th Bud Billiken Parade

Last weekend’s Annual Bud Billiken Parade continued a Black tradition started 79 years ago: parade watching, barbecuing and mingling among family and friends. The parade, which is also telecast live, is sponsored by the Chicago Defender Charities Inc. and

Last weekend’s Annual Bud Billiken Parade continued a Black tradition started 79 years ago: parade watching, barbecuing and mingling among family and friends.

The parade, which is also telecast live, is sponsored by the Chicago Defender Charities Inc., and is considered the official back to school parade for the city’s students. It is the largest annual parade in the country with an estimated 1.2 million people who attend and watch it on TV each year.

The South Side parade ran down King Drive on Saturday, from 35th to 51st Street in the Bronzeville community.

“It is satisfying to have the Bud Billiken Parade in the 3rd Ward,” the ward’s Ald. Pat Dowell said. “All the family traditions associated with the parade, like barbecuing, makes this event worth having each year.”

“As far as the Bud Billiken Parade, everyone looks to this parade as an example of how to have a good time with your family,” Rev. Al Sharpton told the Defender. The New Yorkbased civil rights activist was in town for the parade.

But not everyone has experienced the Bud Billiken Parade. There are some like Frances Garrison, 67, who attended for the first time this year.

“I watched it on TV for years with my kids but never attended because I had a fear about crowds and my kids getting lost,” she said. “Now that they are all grown up, I can get out and experience the Bud Billiken Parade myself.”

Other first-timers were Marshall Brown, 19, a freshman at Illinois State University in downstate Normal. This was Brown’s first time traveling to the South Side as well. He has lived in the Austin community on the West Side his entire life.

“The South Side is a lot different from the West Side,” Brown said. “I have never had a reason to come to the South Side so that’s why this is my first time on this side of town. I came here with my girlfriend who moved from the West Side to the South Side.”

Father and son Fred and Geno Tate attend the parade every year and said they love it.

“I have been coming here my whole life and always find it exciting,” said Geno, 13, a freshman at Morgan Park high school on the South Side. “This year my cousin came with us, and she looks like she is having fun so that’s a good thing.”

Fred, 52, couldn’t imagine not attending the parade because he has become accustomed to it after attending the past 15 years.

“The Bud Billiken Parade is a part of Chicago, and as a Chicagoan, you should attend. My son and I come here every year because we enjoy watching the floats and bands,” he said. “Seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces make it even more exciting to attend.”

Many parade attendees got up early to get a front row seat to watch the parade, which began at 10 a.m.

But Paige Sampson, 43, was not one of them. She lives along the parade route and was able to watch it from her front porch at 4539 S. King Drive.

“Luckily for me I do not have to fight the crowd like everyone else. I can sit right here on my porch where I have a good view of every thing,” she said. “Next year, I am thinking about barbecuing outside like everyone else. This way I can sell dinners and make a little money off of the parade.” Indeed, making money is what many people were doing at the parade. There were people selling bootleg DVDs, food, candy, bottled water, souvenirs, and T-shirts. One of those “street” vendors was Quincy Allen, 56, who was selling barbecue dinners for $6.

“I have chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, and polish sausages, so I am doing okay,” Allen told the Defender. “It’s competitive out here because everyone is selling food or something so you have to cater to each customer because there are a lot of choices out here.”

Allen said he made $100 mid-way through the parade, and after the parade ended, he said he cashed out at $300.

“Not bad for someone who only spent $100 to begin with. Now I wish I had bought more food because I could have made more money at the picnic,” Allen said.

Once the parade ended, a family-style picnic began at Washington Park were free food, souvenirs and informational pamphlets where handed out by city, county and state offices. This year’s parade featured many “regulars” such as the Jesse White Tumblers, South Shore Drill Team and the Percy L. Julian high school Marching Band.

But some parade participants were there for the first time, like Reuben Cannon, executive producer of the TV show House of Payne on TBS. Cannon lives in Atlanta but was born and raised in Chicago.

“The Bud Billiken Parade has rich history on the South Side and the Black community in general, and I am glad that I was finally able to be a part of the actual parade and not just watching it on TV,” he said.

Some residents have expressed concern about the future of the parade since white families are slowly moving into the Bronzeville community and living along the King Drive parade route.

But Dowell said she doubts seriously if the route will be changed because white families are moving to Bronzeville.

“This is a Chicago tradition, and the thought of the parade route being affected by future residents living along King Drive is ridiculous,” she said.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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