Thunderstorms put early end to pride parade, but can’t stop the celebration

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Thunderstorms put early end to pride parade, but can’t stop the celebration

Pride parade goers take shelter under their pride flag as rain starts to fall.

Pride parade goers take shelter under their pride flag as rain starts to fall.

Jonathan Aguilar | The DePaulia

Pride parade goers take shelter under their pride flag as rain starts to fall.

Jonathan Aguilar | The DePaulia

Jonathan Aguilar | The DePaulia

Pride parade goers take shelter under their pride flag as rain starts to fall.

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At the official kickoff point of the celebration, for both the 50th anniversary of Chicago’s Pride Parade and the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York, the crowd was heavily intoxicated and enjoying the music and dancing that spread from the floats to the sidewalks. Everyone was properly covered in glitter and what little clothing there was, was rainbow.

The parade was officially started in Uptown with Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the first openly-gay leader of the city, marching amongst the floats headed south along the parade route. Balloons and bead necklaces of every color filled the streets and covered parade-goers lined up against the gates. 

“I’ve never been to Chicago pride before so I didn’t know what to expect from it,” senior art history major Julia Cristales said. “It was really cool to see everyone express themselves through their clothes and their makeup.”

Almost a million people were expected to attend the day-long celebration of equality, identity and freedom. About an hour in, hundreds of thousands of people gathered along the 2.6 mile-long route throughout Uptown, Buena Park, Boystown and then Lakeview. 

“It’s the 50th anniversary of Stonewall so I feel like this pride was more celebrated than most, but I think that’s just how I feel rather than facts,” Cristales said. “But knowing the history of pride this year and being able to see how far the acceptance of the gay community has come as a queer Asian woman was super cool and the support I felt from going to pride and being surrounded by other gay people was also just super dope.”

As the official party celebrating pride in all of its forms really started to liven up, dark clouds began to roll in. Shadows crept over the buildings, blocking the sun that was previously complimented by a breeze during the 90-degree day.

The winds quickly picked up as the music continued blasting and crowds continued dancing. Sunglasses came off as the area became less bright, but no less colorful. About an hour before the parade was set to officially end, a thunderstorm warning was put out. 

The sky opened up dropping cold water on thousands of people at once, some with protection — umbrellas, ponchos ripped up trash bags and pride flags — and most others without. This was soon followed by the announcement of the official cancellation of the Parade due to the storms.

What followed was a mostly good-spirited, if not chaotic and slightly unpleasant, trudge for hundreds of thousands of people to leave the parade grounds and move on to their next Pride festivity. 

As parade officials instructed floats and performers to cut all music to avoid any unnecessary chaos from dance circles, the crowd politely rejected that plan. Speakers continued blasting — from restaurants, bars and mostly from the massive crowds themselves. 

Parade-goers, already drenched with cold water that increasingly felt colder from the wind, scrambled for any refuge they could, hoping to wait out the storm. Every restaurant and bar was quickly filled — especially including the small spaces on the sidewalk where people gathered tucked under awnings. 

Music — EDM, country, pop, hip hop and a bit of everything else — joined together, weaving in and out down the street. Soon, streets and alleys were flooded by cold water teaming with stickers, candy, glitter and every other parade favor thrown around for the few hours before the rain started. Behind dumpsters and under random garages along the parade route became the next refuge. 

A line of happy, albeit somewhat disappointed and inconvenienced, people formed a makeshift Pride-filled pathway between CTA Red Line stops as dancing people made their way home. 

A marker left in the glittery mud of the enduring celebration of Pride that can’t be squashed — whether it be by noise restrictions, thunderstorms or years of continued oppression and inequality. In the face of it all, the LGBTQ community in Chicago is happy to take on the challenge with solidarity and a smile.