Organizers buck traditional parade route in favor of street performances to celebrate back to school
Crusader Staff Report
The 60th Annual Englewood Back to School Parade, a neighborhood tradition on the South Side, will be scaled back this year in response to the rising COVID-19 cases in Chicago.
The event will be held at 10 a.m. on August 21 at 65th and Racine.
Instead of the traditional parade, the event will be a “block club-style celebration” that will have up to eight individual street performances from several groups, including the popular South Shore Drill Team and the Jesse White Tumblers, said Sandra Streeter, parade co-chair and event coordinator.
Each group will perform for five minutes and will leave the event site when they have finished performing to avoid attracting a crowd, Streeter said.
Streeter said five comedians will emcee the event, and backpacks will be given out.
Streeter said the change in format is in response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases, driven by the deadly Delta variant. She said that her staff will continue to monitor the new cases in Englewood and the city, and may switch to a virtual event if the conditions worsen.
Englewood has the lowest vaccination rate in the city with just 37.2 percent of residents getting at least one shot and 31.2 percent getting both shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
Streeter said volunteers will serve as “social distance ambassadors” and event organizers will follow CPS guidelines. Health trucks will offer COVID-19 tests. She said spectators who test positive will be able to schedule a vaccination appointment. Streeter said there will also be temperature checks and face masks for spectators.
“We’re being proactive to make sure attendees are safe in a healthy environment,” Streeter said.
She said at least 25,000 people attend the parade every year. Last year during the pandemic, the parade was changed to a car procession celebrating the achievements of 8th graders in the neighborhood.
The Englewood Back to School Parade is the second oldest African American parade in the city. The event has always been a jewel in the community, promoting a day of peace as well as pride.
The parade was created in 1961 by Willie Pittman, an Englewood resident who wanted to give youth an alternative to gangs and negative influences within the community. He formed The Central Englewood Drum and Bugle Corps at 65th and Green streets. The Corps was eventually renamed and the “Englewood Back to School Parade” was formed to encourage the youth to stay in school and pursue education, thus developing the theme, “Education Is The Key To The Future . ”
This weekend, a much larger crowd is expected to attend the 92nd annual Bud Billiken Parade and Festival, the largest Black parade in the country that attracts at least 250,000 people a year. It will take place on Saturday, August 14, 2021. The parade in Bronzeville will start at 10 a.m. The festival in Washington Park will start at 10 a.m. and will end at 4 p.m.
WNBA Champion Candace Parker is this year’s Grand Marshal. Reverend Jesse Jackson and Congressmen Bobby Rush and Danny K. Davis are among the honorary parade dignitaries.
The theme for the parade this year is “Back to School, Back to Life and Back to Bud Billiken.”
The parade was canceled last year but returns this week with a smaller parade route and a special COVID-19 safety plan.
The parade route is 10 blocks long. It will begin at 45th and King Drive. The parade continues south on King Drive and enters Washington Park on Ellsworth Drive and continues to the endpoint at 55th Street in Washington Park.
With massive crowds expected to attend the event, there are concerns the parade and festival will potentially become super spreader events for the coronavirus.
Chicago’s Black neighborhoods have the lowest vaccination rates in the city, as the Delta variant continues to cause a spike in new COVID-19 cases across the city.
Health officials are closely watching the COVID-19 cases climb, nearly two weeks after nearly 400,000 people attended the four-day Lollapalooza music festival in Grant Park under no mandatory mask restrictions for outdoor activities.
In response to the health concerns, officials at the Robert Sengstacke Abbott Foundation,whichorganizestheBudBil- liken Parade and Festival, have implemented a special COVID-19 safety plan.
In accordance with the city of Chicago requirements, spectators, all attendees, regardless of vaccination status, must wear masks within the festival grounds and maintain social distancing whenever possible.
A full COVID-19 vaccination or negative COVID-19 test result is required to enter the festival in Washington Park.
For patrons who are not fully vaccinated, a negative COVID-19 test result must be obtained within 72 hours (3 days) of attending the Bud Billiken Festival. Attendees who are not vaccinated can only enter the festival upon signing up and agreeing to be vaccinated that day. Vaccinations will be provided by CDPH and Cook County Health.
There will also be vaccination vans on-site during the event.