When Does the Bud Billiken Parade Start?

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The Bud Billiken Parade is a lively annual event held every August in Chicago, Illinois that attracts over one million attendees each year. With its origins tracing back over 90 years, the Bud Billiken Parade has become an iconic Chicago tradition and a highlight of summer in the Windy City.

What is the Bud Billiken Parade?

The Bud Billiken Parade is a large-scale parade and street festival held annually in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. The parade features elaborate floats, marching bands, drill teams, dancers, and more. The parade celebrates back to school, youth empowerment, and the Bud Billiken mythology.

The parade is hosted by Chicago Defender Charities and is the culmination event for Bud Billiken Week. The parade has served as an unofficial kickoff to the new school year in Chicago since 1929. The event draws over one million spectators each year, making it one of the largest parades in the United States.

History of the Bud Billiken Parade

The Bud Billiken Parade has its origins dating back to 1929 in Chicago. The parade was created by Robert Sengstacke Abbott, founder of the Chicago Defender newspaper. Abbott launched the Bud Billiken Club in 1923 as a way to promote pride, self-confidence, and education among black youth in Chicago.

The fictional character “Bud Billiken” was touted as a guardian angel of children and was created by Abbott. The first Bud Billiken Parade was held in 1929 and included only 25 children marching down South Parkway (now called King Drive).

Over the decades, the parade has grown substantially, attracting both local and national talent to perform. Well-known performers like Destiny’s Child, The Jackson 5, and The Temptations have participated over the years. The parade continues its original mission of celebrating youth and education in Chicago.

When Does the Bud Billiken Parade Take Place?

The Bud Billiken Parade takes place annually on the second Saturday in August. This places the parade solidly in the midst of summer break for Chicago students. The consistent August date has cemented the parade’s reputation as an unofficial back-to-school event in the city.

Parade Start Time

The Bud Billiken Parade has an early morning start time of 10:00 AM. This allows spectators to arrive early to claim their preferred viewing spots. It also ensures the parade wraps up before the mid-day Chicago summer heat becomes intense.

Parade Start Location

The parade kicks off at the intersection of King Drive and Oakwood Boulevard in the Bronzeville neighborhood. This is on Chicago’s South Side.

Parade Route

The 1.5 mile parade route travels southbound down King Drive. It concludes at 55th Place and King Drive. The entire route stays within the Bronzeville community.

So in summary, the Bud Billiken Parade begins at 10 AM on the second Saturday each August. It starts at King Drive and Oakwood Blvd and heads south to 55th Place.

What to Expect at the Parade

The Bud Billiken Parade is known for its lively, celebratory atmosphere focused on youth, family, and back to school. Here’s a glimpse of what spectators can enjoy at the event:

Floats and Marching Units

Elaborately decorated floats will roll down the parade route, often sponsored by Chicago businesses, organizations, schools, and churches. Marching bands, drill teams, cheer teams, dancers, choirs, and more also participate.

Performers and Celebrities

The parade features local musicians and national acts. Well-known celebrities often ride the floats as well. Past participants include Chance the Rapper, Common, Michelle Obama, and more.

Costumes and Giveaways

Many parade participants wear colorful, oversized costumes of characters, mascots, historical figures, and more. Parade-goers can expect to catch t-shirts, candy, trinkets, and coupons tossed from floats.

Bud Billiken Icon

Keep an eye out for the Bud Billiken icon himself. He’s easy to spot wearing a beanie cap and waving a wand at spectators.

Community and Family Focus

The Bud Billiken Parade celebrates youth, education, and the African American community. It’s an event where families and friends congregate in lawn chairs to enjoy the spectacle.

Additional Bud Billiken Week Events

The Bud Billiken Parade serves as the closing event for Bud Billiken Week in Chicago. Additional activities happen earlier in the week leading up to the big parade.

Bud Billiken Day Picnic

A free community picnic is held in Washington Park on the Sunday before the parade. The picnic features music, food, games, and giveaways.

Back to School Rally

Local schools and churches host a rally on the Thursday before the parade. The rally promotes education, provides school supplies, and gets students excited for the new school year.

Health Fair

Free health screenings and resources are offered at a health fair held 2-3 days prior to the parade.

Celebrity Basketball Game

A charity basketball game happens on Friday night, pitting Chicago celebs and church leaders against each other.

Planning a Visit to the Parade

Attending the Bud Billiken Parade is free and open to the public. Here are some tips for planning a visit:

  • Arrive early – come a few hours early to claim a good sidewalk spot before crowds gather. Bring folding chairs or blankets.
  • Use public transit – avoid traffic and parking headaches by taking the L-Train or bus. Exit at 35th or 43rd for easy parade access.
  • Stay hydrated – August in Chicago is hot. Bring water and refill bottles from vendors.
  • Watch near the start – less crowded than the end. Best view is from 35th to Pershing.
  • Pack snacks – food trucks will be available but having your own snacks helps.
  • Protect from sun – use sunscreen and hats for shade. Wear sun glasses to see the parade.
  • Camera ready – capture great photos and videos. But be mindful not to block spectators’ views.
  • Restroom plan – public restrooms will have long lines. Consider arriving with empty bladders.
  • Have fun! – take in the bands, floats, music, costumes, and sense of community.

The Parade: Bringing Chicago Together Since 1929

The Bud Billiken Parade has become an iconic Chicago tradition bringing together families, friends, and the community each August. What started in 1929 as a small parade of just 25 children has blossomed into the largest parade in Chicago today.

The parade’s messages of youth empowerment, education, and family are as relevant today as they were nearly a century ago. For over 90 years, the Bud Billiken Parade has kicked off the school year in Chicago with joy, celebration, and a sense of togetherness.

So if you find yourself in Chicago in early August, make sure to experience this one-of-a-kind event. Claim your viewing spot by 10 AM on that second Saturday and take in the spectacular sights and sounds of the Bud Billiken Parade as it winds down King Drive. You’ll be glad you joined in this time-honored Chicago tradition!

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