Chicago's Top Parades 2009

By Jenny Berg & Amalie Drury July 7, 2009, 3:39 PM EDT

The Columbus Day Parade is in its 57th year.

Photo: City of Chicago/Mayor's Office of Special Events

1. Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic
America’s largest African-American parade, this gathering sees 75,000 marchers proceed down Martin Luther King Drive. The event celebrates its 80th anniversary on August 8 this year, when organizers expect more than 1.2 million spectators.

2. Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
The Greater North Michigan Avenue Association presents this kid-friendly holiday parade, scheduled for November 21 this year. The event typically draws around 900,000 spectators, is nationally televised, and culminates with a fireworks display over the Chicago River.

3. Venetian Night
Venetian Night, Chicago’s oldest city-sponsored event, will take place this year on July 25. The parade is expected to draw 675,000 spectators, who will watch a procession of 35 decorated boats cruise between Lake Michigan and the intersection of Lake Shore Drive and Congress Parkway.

4. McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade
The 2008 parade drew a crowd of 400,000 spectators and featured cameos from the Budweiser Clydesdales and the cast of Jersey Boys. The 2009 parade will take place, as usual, on Thanksgiving Day, and move down State Street from Congress to Randolph.

5. Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade
The 2009 incarnation, on June 28, was expected to draw 400,000 spectators. The always-colorful parade turns 40 this year.

6. St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Chicago’s 2009 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a tradition since 1957, took place on March 14. After the river was dyed green, the parade began at noon at Balbo and Columbus Drives. More than 300,000 spectators attended.

7. Puerto Rican Day Parade
In 2008, the theme of this parade was “Puerto Ricans Reaching New Heights,” and astronaut Joseph Acaba was grand marshal. Some 300,000 spectators were expected this year on June 20.

8. South Side Mexican Independence Day Parade
The South Side Mexican Independence Day Parade celebrates Mexican culture with the help of 300,000 spectators. This year’s parade will take place September 13 on Columbus from Balbo to Monroe Street.

9. South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade
The South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day parade took place March 15. Now in its 30th year, and acknowledged as the largest neighborhood St. Patrick’s Day parade outside Dublin, the event draws 250,000 spectators.The 2010 parade has been canceled in favor or a series of smaller neighborhood events, details of which will be released closer to the holiday.

10. Memorial Day Parade
Billed as the country’s largest Memorial Day parade, this event features 200 floats and about 200,000 spectators each year. The 2009 parade was held May 23, following a wreath-laying ceremony in Daley Plaza.

11. Columbus Day Parade
Produced by the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, Chicago’s annual Columbus Day Parade is now in its 57th year. The 2009 incarnation, scheduled for October 12, will feature more than 150 floats.

12. Chicagoland Toys for Tots Motorcycle Parade
Each year, around 25,000 bikers take part in this 20-mile motorcade. This year’s event takes place December 6.

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