Along King Drive in Bronzeville, among the high stepping and drum coring and, of course, the food, thousands of spectators lined the route for the 85th annual Bud Billiken Parade, the oldest and largest African-American parade in the country.
The main message is getting back to school on September 2.
“It’s a great family event, lots of people participate, and it’s focused on back to school and education, so as a teacher that makes me proud,” Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle said.
This year, a big year for elections in the city and state, politicians of all stripes made their appearances.
“We want to make sure that all of our children get the top-notch education they deserve, and that's really what Bud Billiken Parade is about,” Gov. Pat Quinn said.
“We’ve got to turn our state around, and I’d love to meet with every voter,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner said. Rauner tried his best, walking up and down the parade route.
“A politician would have to be out of his mind not to be here,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said.
Jim Oberweis, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, said the parade’s goals and energy were very important. “I think this is a great show of community support, people coming together to help raise money for a community project,” he said.
“We have a lot more work to do to make sure that every child in every school in every neighborhood in the city of Chicago gets the education they need,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.
Another face also here was Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis, who at least for now is hearing and seeing a call to run against Emanuel.
“I just think that we’re at a time right now when people see that there are other ways to think about things and do things, so it’s very encouraging that people understand that,” Lewis said.
This year’s grand marshal, recording artist and Chicago’s very own Chaka Khan, is no stranger to the parade. “I remember coming to this parade when I was a kid and my father used to hold me on his shoulders,” she said. “It’s like a big homecoming in another way to me.”
The parade was a good time for the kids as the message of education is reinforced for another year on the city’s South Side.