Chicago's Top Parades & Holiday Events 2010

St. Patrick's Day Parade
St. Patrick's Day Parade
Photo: Dean Battaglia

1. Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic
This nationally telecast event is the nation’s oldest and largest African-American parade. About 1.5 million spectators watch this 315-piece procession, which has included Oprah Winfrey and L.L. Cool J. This year’s parade is August 14.

2. McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade
On Thanksgiving Day, the 77th iteration of this McDonald’s-sponsored parade will move up State Street from Congress to Randolph. More than 1,200 volunteers facilitate the event. Organizers anticipate some 425,000 spectators, and the parade will be broadcast on WGN.

3. St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Beginning with the famous dyeing-green of the Chicago River, this bagpipe-scored march falls on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day so whole families can come out to watch. WGN broadcasts the event nationally, and some 300,000 spectators look on from the Chicago streets.

4. Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
Harris Bank presents this holiday parade, which draws 900,000 spectators. Mickey Mouse serves as grand marshal for a processional lighting of more than 200 trees along Michigan Avenue, and the festivities culminate with fireworks over the Chicago River. This year the event falls on November 21.

5. Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade
Held annually on the last Saturday of June, national Gay Pride Month, this East Lakeview event is 41 years old. The 2010 iteration has 250 registered entries and will draw 400,000 onlookers.

6. Puerto Rican Parade
Scheduled for June 19, this procession will take off at noon from Monroe Street and Balbo Drive. Organizers expect some 300,000 spectators, and local radio and television stations will broadcast the event live.

7. 26th Street Mexican Independence Day Parade
On September 12, Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood will host the 2010 iteration of this vibrant celebration. Traveling down 26th Street from Kedzie to Kostner Avenues, the event draws 300,000 spectators and offers floats, mariachi bands, and stalls slinging authentic Mexican fare.

8. Memorial Day Parade

One of the country’s largest Memorial Day parades, this patriotic event garners 200,000 spectators. This year’s May 29 event will follow its traditional State Street route from Lake to Van Buren Street.

9. Columbus Day Parade

Italian flags wave at this fall happening produced by the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. The 2010 version will hit the downtown area on October 11.

10. Chicagoland Toys for Tots Motorcycle Parade
The nation’s largest event of its kind, this charitable procession features some 10,000 motorcyclists. Many riders don Santa hats and deck their bikes with sparkly garlands. This year’s event will take place December 5.

Correction: The listing for the Chicagoland Toys for Tots Motorycle Parade has been updated. The event is not, as previously stated, associated with the Marine Corps Reserve.