Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic
|Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic|
Barack Obama float for 2004 U.S. Senate race at the 2004 parade.
|Date(s)||August 11, 2012 (previous)
August 10, 2013 (upcoming)
|Location(s)||Chicago , Illinois
The Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic is an annual parade in Chicago, Illinois, and the oldest and largest African American parade in the United States. Since 1929, it has always been held on the second Saturday in August. The idea for the parade came from Robert S. Abbott, the founder of the Chicago Defender. It is now the second largest annual parade in the United States.
The focus of the parade is on the betterment of Chicago youth. The parade features celebrities, politicians, businessmen, civic organizations and youth. It occurs on the South Side of Chicago in Cook County, Illinois and concludes in Washington Park. National and international celebrities have attended and some have served as the parade's Grand Marshal.
Bud Billiken is a fictional character created in 1923 by Abbott, who had been pondering the possibility of adding a youth section to the newspaper. While dining at a Chinese restaurant he noticed a Billiken. Some of the early Billiken columns were written by Willard Motley, who would later become a prominent African-American novelist. During the early 1930s, names of international youth appeared in the Bud Billiken section of the newspaper every week. Between 1930-34, approximately 10,000 names appeared and were archived in the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library of the Chicago Public Library. During the Great Depression, the Bud Billiken character served as a symbol of pride, happiness and hope for black residents. The character gained prominence in a comic strip and the Chicago Defender newspaper.
Although the character was created in 1923, the parade did not begin until David Kellum initiated it in 1929 as a celebration of the "unity in diversity for the children of Chicago". It has since grown to become a locally televised event—the second largest parade in the nation. The parade, which began on August 11, 1929, now includes politicians, beauty queens, celebrities, musical performers, and dozens of marching, tumbling and dancing groups. It has grown from a locally sponsored event to one with major corporate presence and is seen as a signal of the impending end of summer and beginning of the new school year. As such the parade sponsors raise money for college scholarships for local youth.
The parade route has changed over the years. The original route was along Michigan Avenue beginning at 31st Street, then turned east into Washington Park. Concern for north-south traffic flow caused rerouting the parade route to South Parkway (now named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive), which runs directly into the park. At various times, street repairs have necessitated use of the Michigan route, but the current route is now the King Drive route.
Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll of Amos 'n' Andy fame were the first guests of honor in the original parade. Robert S. Abbott led the first parade in his Rolls Royce. Dr. Marjorie Stewart Joyner, president of the Chicago Defender Charities, Inc., organized the parade for over 50 years. Numerous high-profile celebrities and dignitaries have attended the parade over the years, including U.S. President Harry S. Truman, Michael Jordan, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Duke Ellington, Oprah Winfrey, Lena Horne, Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway, Paul Robeson and Billie Holiday.
Truman rode alongside John H. Sengstacke, who was Abbott's nephew and took over the Chicago Defender in 1948, and Mayor Richard J. Daley in the 1956 Parade. Recent parades have featured popular musical acts as concert performers at the post-parade picnic. In 2006, approximately 26 million people saw the parade in person or on television, including 25 million television viewers and 1.2 million attendees. The 2006 parade also included 74,000 participants and 160 floats and vehicles.
At the 78th annual parade in 2007, then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama served as the Grand Marshal for the second year in a row. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley attended, and march participants included U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Lieutenant Governor of Illinois Pat Quinn and the Rev. Al Sharpton. One float represented the Chicago 2016 Committee and included past Chicago Olympians Bob Pickens, Willie May, Diane Simpson-Bundy and Kenny Johnson as well as the son of Danell Nicholson. The Chicago Bulls' mascot made a guest appearance. The parade has categorized contests for participants such as best float, and best marching band.
It takes place in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood, starting near 39th Street and South Dr. Martin Luther King Drive at the southern border of the Douglas community area, south of the landmark Victory Monument. It then continues south to 55th Street at Washington Park. This route covers approximately 2 miles (3.2 km). This route takes the parade through the Grand Boulevard and Washington Park community areas.
The parade commences around 10 A.M. and ends at around 3 P.M. After the parade visitors are welcomed to stay in Washington Park for the picnic. The picnic has various festivities and vendor booths. The post-parade festivities often include a concert.
The 2003 parade featured B2K. The concert was free with virtually unlimited space in the park for viewing. However, the crowd became unruly causing the concert to be curtailed. Over 40 attendees were taken to hospitals as a result. The 2006 parade featured Yung Joc, and the 2007 parade featured Pretty Ricky. However, it seems neither picnic included a concert.
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