Gay Pride festival, parade split over 2 weekends

The Windy City Cowboys kick during the Pride Parade on Chicago's North Side in 2012. (Michael Tercha, Chicago Tribune)

Chicago’s gay pride month, which has typically culminated with an action-packed 72 hours of Pride Fest and Pride Parade celebrations, will be divvied up differently this year.

The parade and festival during gay pride month in June will be held on separate weekends, organizers of both events have confirmed.

Attendance at the Pride Parade has increased steadily over the years – growing to 850,000 attendees in 2012 – and the change was made in part to alleviate pressure on Chicago police who patrol the big events.

“Police will have a less stressful time, hopefully,” said Jen Gordon, a spokesperson for the Northalsted Business Alliance, which organizes Pride Fest.

No major incidents at the festival or parade were reported by police last year.

The Pride Fest, which features arts and crafts as well as food and live entertainment each year, will be held all day Saturday, June 22, and Sunday, June 23.

Traditionally, the event has only been a day and a half, held Friday night and Saturday, making way for the Pride Parade on the last Sunday of June.

The Pride Parade this year will be June 30.

“We look at the availability of premier entertainers, too,” Gordon said. “We have greater flexibility to bring people in this way.”

The change of events will give far-away travelers more time to make it to the city, Gordon said. She also said it gives these travelers an excuse to spend an entire week in the city, as opposed to a long weekend.

The Pride Parade will remain relatively unchanged, organizer Richard Pfeiffer said. Last year, the route for the parade was lengthened, to accommodate increasing crowds.

The extended route, which Pfieffer said was an “exceptional success” last year, will remain in effect.

Pfeiffer and Gordon both said having the events on separate weekends will affect crowds, but it’s hard to say how.

“For us, it’s going to work better for the community and business on the street as well,” Gordon said. Although gay pride events will be held all month, “we want to have a whole weeklong celebration leading up to the parade.”

ehirst@tribune.com