Crowds rain on my parade

An increase of attendance at Pride made navigating the parade route impossible.

By Christina Pillsbury, '12


I know a lot of UChicago students now break the stereotype that we're socially awkward, pale, reclusive human beings, but at the Pride Parade last weekend I’m afraid I reinforced this perception.

I'm by no means new to the joyous, dance-filled festivities of Pride. The last time I attended I had a gay old time, and couldn't wait to relive that experience. Or so I thought.

According to all my friends’ Facebook statuses, the Gay Pride parade was the time of their lives, but for me the event became an unbearable rainbow nightmare. The Tribune reported that roughly 25,000 more people attended this year’s parade than last year's. No measures were taken to anticipate the increase in attendance.

pride-parade-2011_cp02.jpgI love supporting gay rights and busting out my rainbow outfits and dousing myself in glitter, but I can’t be alone in my fear of oppressive crowds. I’m positive other students from the school "where fun goes to die” must also be afflicted.

As I made my way from the corner of Halsted and Clark to Roscoe to meet some fellow UChicagoans, I attempted to navigate the Halsted and Belmont intersection. This turned out to be a mistake. For anyone who is claustrophobic, or who doesn't like being pressed up against 100 other sweaty, glittery people: avoid this area at all costs during Pride. Go West to Clark or even Sheffield, but don’t try to brave this awful intersection.

For at least 20 minutes—although it felt like hours—I stood at the corner as the crowd pushed, yanked, and squeezed me halfway down the block. I got to know my fellow parade-goers much too well as we were smushed into one another. The smell of beer and sweat filled my nostrils as armpits were thrust near my nose.

I had joined in on the festivities the night before, club-hopping in Boystown and running into several U of C alumni, and although the dance floors were more crowded than Psi Upsilon on Halloween, I managed to enjoy myself, so I thought I’d be able to have fun at the parade.

But the crowd induced a panic attack that bordered on psychosis. I was frozen, unable to breathe, and suddenly I was crying in front of a million people. Remember in My Girl when Anna Chlumsky, AB'02, finds out that Macaulay Culkin was stung to death by the bees? Yeah, it was kind of like that.

While the crowd wiggled me slowly toward my destination, I could vaguely make out some proud attendees in their rainbow gear and some half-naked performers on floats. Unfortunately, I couldn't get close enough to give my full attention the spectacle.

Needless to say, I wasn't able to meet up with the other UChicago students, but from what I can tell, they were smarter about getting to the less crowded spectator area. Perhaps there's a class I haven't yet taken on how to avoid impenetrable swarms of people?

With Gay Pride flags waiving high, the crowd of 750,000 packed between the corner of Halsted and Belmont to Diversey and Sheridan.

July 5, 2011