Chicago Pride Parade: an afternoon of rainbows and rain

Lansing residents, Purdue students join the celebration

by Carrie Steinweg

CHICAGO, Ill. (July 5, 2019) – Sunday marked the 50th Annual Chicago Pride Parade, traditionally held on the last Sunday of June. The first parade was organized as a march on June 27, 1970, with 150–200 individuals participating. Today attendance at the event, which celebrates the LBGTQ community, exceeds a million.

Although this year’s parade was cut short due to storms, weather didn’t dampen the spirits of those who came out in celebration and support. The cancellation occurred a half-hour before the parade was scheduled to conclude, after severe weather warnings were issued by the National Weather Service.

Pride from Purdue

The parade has been taking place for decades, but for many people—including a group from Purdue University Northwest’s campuses in Hammond and Westville—this was their first experience taking part in the festivities. George F. Kacenga, Executive Director of Global Engagement for Purdue Northwest joined the university last year and organized for the school’s LGBT+ Alliance group to march together in the parade for the first time.

A group from Purdue Northwest’s Hammond and Westville campuses walked in Chicago’s 50th Annual Pride Parade. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)

“My husband and I celebrated 10 years together this May, and during my first year being with PNW professionally, I learned that the student-led LGBT+ Alliance was going through a normal leadership change. Together we thought a presence in the Pride Parade was a great way to celebrate PNW as the ‘Pride,’ and generate interest in the student group and our university’s pride for the LGBTQ community,” said Kecenga.

About 42 participants from the two campuses traveled to Chicago to walk the 4-mile parade route. “Several students are new freshmen who haven’t even started classes but found community at PNW through our participation in the parade. This year’s Pride Parade in Chicago recognized the 50 years that followed the Stonewall Riots. It’s important for students to learn about and understand the significance of these events.”

Beautiful faces

Kelly Pierce, 20, of Lansing, attended her second Pride Parade this year. Last year she was there as a spectator, and this year she was able to take it all in from a float in the parade. She sat on the WGN Radio float, which had a theme of “Voices of Pride.”

It was also the second parade for Zach Furmanek, 19, of Lansing. He walked in the parade beside the WGN Radio float handing out cell phone credit card holder giveaways and beads to spectators. “It’s a fun way to show your pride and who you are,” he said.

Kelly Pierce and Zach Furmanek of Lansing participated in Chicago’s 50th Annual Pride Parade on Sunday, June 30. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)

“Pride, to me, is being truly yourself and not caring what other people think about you. I’ve never seen as many free-caring spirits as I have at the Pride Parade,” said Pierce. “It was an outstanding opportunity to be able to ride on the float this year and see all of the beautiful faces and outfits people have spent hours perfecting. The cheers and dances were phenomenal to watch. I wish we could’ve finished out the parade, but the rain came so we had to stop. I love Pride and Pride-goers. Everyone’s truly themselves, and its a beautiful experience.” The float Pierce was on was number 60 out of 163.

Leading the parade this year was Chicago’s first openly-gay mayor, Lori Lightfoot, who walked with her wife, Amy Eshleman, and with police Superintendent Eddie Johnson for part of the route. Among the floats and walking groups were the Chicago White Sox, the Obama Foundation, T-Mobile, US99 FM, Jewel-Osco, and the Chicago Cubs.

Matthew Smith of Oak Park wears a Pride Flag as he walks in the Chicago Pride Parade on Sunday. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)
Matthew Smith of Oak Park has been participating in the parades since he was 19 in both Chicago and St. Louis. “This Pride marks my 14th Pride Parade I have walked in. I have walked with many different groups, but why I walk remains the same. I walk to celebrate pride and show my support for the LGBTQ community—the community that welcomed me with open arms.”

“On the route, PNW students, faculty, and staff distributed Purdue Northwest frisbees to parade-goers, parents, friends and family, and PNW alumni. Purdue Northwest is a big part of the NW Indiana and greater Chicago area community,” said Kacenga. “Much like the culture of Purdue Northwest, the parade experience was all about putting students first. And even though it rained on this parade, the love and community present today cannot be washed away. PNW students are already planning for next year, and a new tradition was born today.”

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