Going to the Bud Billiken Parade Saturday? Information You Need!

The parade, known as “The Bud” among locals, has been an annual tradition in Chicago since 1929 and serves as both a send-off to summer and a showcase for the city’s brightest young people. The Sengstacke family has been putting on what they claim is the largest African American parade and the second largest parade in the United States (after the Rose Parade) for four generations.

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life will line the two-mile route in Bronzeville to watch marching bands, dance and drill teams, tumbling cheerleaders, and celebrity honorary grand marshals ride in style in vintage automobiles and floats. After the march, thousands of free backpacks, supplies, and other goodies will be distributed in Washington Park.

[As the community continues to heal in the wake of the Highland Park shooting, the Bud Billiken Parade will go off with a renewed emphasis on security, particularly on the city’s rooftops.]

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The live coverage of the parade on WLS-Ch. 7 and abc7chicago.com is expected to draw in an additional one million viewers between 10 a.m. and noon.

  • Time and date: 10 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 13.
  • Location: Bronzeville.
  • Route: The parade begins at the intersection of East Pershing Road (39th Street) and South King Drive and marches south to Washington Park.
  • Festival: As in previous years, a family-friendly fair called will take place after the parade in Washington Park and remain open until 4 p.m.
  • rand marshal: Jeremih, R&B singer
  • Honorary grand marshals: Brett Hart, president of United Airlines; Gen. Rodney Boyd, commander of the Illinois Army National Guard; Cheryl Green, president of Governors State University; Dorri McWhorter, president and CEO of YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago; Sanja Rickette Stinson, founder and CEO of Matthew House; Mark Edmond, Jamuel Lewis and Charles Alexander, founders of Black Bread Co.

What are the parade’s origins?

In 1905, Robert Sengstacke Abbott launched the Chicago Defender.

Abbott invited five newsboys from his publication to a picnic in 1924.

On August 11, 1929, Abbott hosted the first parade to show his appreciation to the kids who sold his newspaper door to door. He decided the best way to show his appreciation was to treat them to some of their favorite things: ice cream, hot dogs, and a day in the park.

Abbott launched Defender Junior, a section of his weekly tabloid aimed squarely at kids, in 1921. A club was later added, attracting kids from all across the United States and Africa and providing an alternative to the Boy Scouts in light of the era’s racial discrimination.

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Abbott and the Defender’s executive editor Lucius Harper created the fictional editor/mascot Bud Billiken, who they portrayed as the protector and defender of children. There are two possible explanations for how the word “Billiken” came to be known to the pair: either the word was discovered in a dictionary, or Harper happened to keep a carving of a Billiken on his workstation.

In passing, it’s interesting to note that Billikens, or good-luck figures, were a huge deal in the early 1900s. The fat little good luck creature, a mashup of a Kewpie doll and a Buddha figure, was designed by Kansas City art teacher Florence Pretz, and for a time the impish-looking “god of things as they ought to be” was all the rage. Dolls, banks, figurines, and other memorabilia bearing his appearance were produced by the Chicago firm Billiken Company.

Who has participated in the Bud Billiken Parade?

Politicians and civic leaders: Since the parade’s start, many famous persons have marched in it. A few examples are as follows: There have been two Mayors Daley, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Senator Barack Obama, President Harry Truman, and Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor.

Entertainers: artists like James Brown, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Chaka Khan, Spike Lee, Diana Ross, and the Supremes, Oprah Winfrey, and Chance the Rapper.

Sporting greats:  Floyd Patterson, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Candace Parker, Joe Louis, and Jesse Owens.

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