The Crusader Newspaper Group

2022 Bud Billiken Parade reaped largest revenue from political candidates in years

Exhibiting its first full return since the pandemic postponed the annual event in 2020, this year’s 93rd edition of the Bud Billiken Parade drew $121,300 from political candidates who participated in the iconic event, according to an analysis of campaign data from the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Records show that Governor JB Pritzker, who since 2018 has given the most money to the Bud Billiken Parade every year than any other political official, contributed $64,550 to the 2022 event, more than half of this year’s haul from political candidates.

Pritzker’s $64,550 was given in seven payments to Defender Charities, the non-profit foundation in Bronzeville that organizes the annual parade.

The largest donation Pritzker made was $50,000, as an event sponsor on July 29, 2022. A month earlier, Pritzker gave a $5,150 donation to the Foundation on June 24. The rest of the payments were for advertisements in Bronzeville Life, the newspaper that promotes the Bud Billiken Parade and its sponsors.

Mayoral candidate Willie Wilson was the second largest donor, giving $10,000 as a sponsor of the parade. Mayor Lori Lightfoot paid $5,000 for an event sponsorship and mayoral candidate and 6th Ward Alderman Roderick Sawyer paid $5,000 for parade fees, campaign records show.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle gave a $5,000 parade contribution to Defender Charities, while People Who Play By the Rules, the conservative political group that pumped millions into failed Republican candidate Darren Bailey’s gubernatorial campaign, gave $6,000 for an advertisement in Bronzeville Life on October 25.

Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Iris Martinez gave $250 in two payments, the smallest amount among political officials.

The revenue does not include income from non-political parade participants, including numerous organizations, corporations and community groups who make up the bulk of the largest parade in the country.

This year’s revenue from political candidates and officials was the largest amount the parade’s organizer, Defender Charities, raised in years after the pandemic damaged fundraising efforts that support the event.

The Crusader analyzed five years of data on political donations to the Bud Billiken Parade, the traditional back-to-school event for hundreds of thousands of Chicago Public School students.

The Crusader found that in five years, Pritzker has given a total of $144,550, more than half of the $285,379 given by political candidates since 2018, campaign records show.

During that five-year period Pritzker contributed big bucks every year except 2020, when the parade was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

While the parade drew $121,300 in 2022, it drew $48,250 from political candidates in 2021, when the parade was cut in half because of the pandemic. In 2020, when most events were shut down, the parade received just $700 in political donations. In 2019, the Bud Billiken Parade generated $56,179 in political revenue and in 2018, the event generated $58,950 from political candidates.

While Pritzker gave $64,550 to this year’s Bud Billiken Parade, he—as the largest donor—gave $30,000 in 2021. He did not give in 2020 when the pandemic forced organizers to cancel the parade. In 2019, Pritzker paid $20,000 to be a sponsor, and in 2018, he gave $30,000 for a sponsorship.

Defender Charities does not release overall revenue data it generates from the Bud Billiken Parade, the Foundation’s largest source of income.

Founded in 1929 by Chicago Defender founder Robert S. Abbott, the Bud Billiken Parade grew into the largest parade in the country under the helm of the late Margaret Stewart Joyner, who died in 1994.

Since its origin, U.S. presidents, senators, governors and Black celebrities have participated in the parade, held on Chicago’s iconic Martin Luther King Drive.

The event was first held in the winter before it was moved to the summer season in 1932, according to Ethan Michaeli’s book, “The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America.”

Recent News

Scroll to Top