CHICAGO —  An annual back-to-school tradition will be in full swing this weekend. 

The Bud Billiken celebrations are set to overtake the streets of the Southside this Saturday. However, following the tragedy in Highland Park, security remains a huge concern. 

“The Bud Billiken Parade is 93 years old. We are excited about that. We only missed one year in 2020,” said Myiti Sengstacke-Rice, whose great-grand-uncle Robert Sengstacke Abbott started both the Chicago Defender newspaper and the Bud Billiken Parade back in 1929.

“There were newsboys that would take the newspapers and sell them – rain, sleet, or snow – he wanted to do something nice for them,” Sengstacke-Rice said.  

The Southside festival has been a staple ever since, celebrating the end of summer and kids returning to school.  

“There’s about four generations of families that have been attending the parade,” Sengstacke-Rice said. “It’s a big reunion.” 

For more information on the Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic, click here 

The parade kicks off on Saturday, with plenty of preparations already underway. Following the parade, a festival will be held at Washington Park, loaded with various resources for families and some freebies.  

“We have free haircuts for boys and hair braiding for girls, all kinds of goodies for the kids to prepare them for back to school,” Sengstacke-Rice said.

After a mass shooting in Highland Park, where seven people were killed and dozens more injured, safety is top of the mind for organizers, parade-goers and law enforcement, according to Chicago police Supt. David Brown.  

“Really focused on the high ground rooftop areas in relation to that lesson learned from Highland Park as well as engagement with the people putting on the event. That is one of the key parts we can do to make sure it’s a really safe parade,” Brown said.  

The hope is that the annual parade will be a safe and fun experience for all.  

“I think people are ready to go back to the way things were,” Sengstacke-Rice said. “I think it’s going to be bigger and better than ever.”