For the first time this decade (and after at least two postponements), the Chicago Pride Parade will take place Sunday, June 26, starting at noon. The route will start at Montrose Avenue and Broadway, winding through Boystown/Northalsted before ending at Diversey Parkway and Sheridan Road (in Lincoln Park).
Tim Frye is handling the reins as event organizer, taking over from his late husband, Rich Pfeiffer, who passed away in October 2019. He recently talked with Windy City Times about the paradeand himself.
Windy City Times: How does it feel to actually know that a Pride Parade is taking place?
Tim Frye: It feels fantastic. From a personal standpoint, I'm very happy this is happeningand it's a bit scary. I'm thinking, "Oh, what have I forgotten?" So far, it's been okay.
WCT: By the way, who's the grand marshal?
TF: We don't have grand marshals this year, per se. Last year, we had moved the parade to October [before it was canceled] and it turns out that is LGBTQ History Month. So we had three special guests, or local marshals: They are the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame, Gerber/Hart Library and the Illinois Holocaust Museum, which had that incredible Stonewall exhibit. We decided that history is just as important now as it has been, so we have the same three marshals now.
Also, back in 2019, we had legacy grand marshals. One of them wasn't able to be there, so we're going to have [Hall of Fame inductee] Gary Chichester as a legacy grand marshal.
And we also want to recognize an organization that's been an entry in the parade [for decades]: the Chicago Gender Society. So we want to recognize them as well for being such an incredible member of the Pride Parade for so long.
WCT: It's a change from other cities that sometimes have celebrity grand marshals.
TF: We have had celebritiesbut I get funny when it comes to celebrity grand marshals. We've had people in the past who some might not know. We had the first gay umpire in Major League Baseball, we've had football and baseball players way back when, we've had [actor] George Takei. A lot of places have different Pride parades and marshals, though.
WCT: I'm sure you have heard about disruptions that have happened at different Pride events around the country, although the recent Chicago Pride Fest went largely without disturbances. How concerned are you about security at the parade?
TF: Oh, I've been concerned about security for a very long time. We have had extra security at the parade for the past five or six years. There's security you wouldn't know. We've talked with the police and they're putting extra eyes out. [Note: Ald. Tom Tunney has called for extra security at the parade, according to various media reports.]
So we do the best that we can. It's hard to predict. But if you see something, say somethingthat's as important as anything else.
WCT: At the recent Reclaim Pride march, a speaker talked about wanting the Pride Parade to become a nonprofit with a diverse board. What's your reaction to that?
TF: Well, we're moving in that direction. It was different this year; I didn't know until March that we might have a parade so those things may become a possibility.
WCT: Do you feel the Pride Parade has lost its activist spirit? There are some who say it's too focused on entertainment, etc.
TF: As it grew, it probably became less focused on activismbut you have to think about it: The way it has influenced the city and made people look forward to it is a kind of activism. We have a joyous Pride Parade. So much of the city watch it and are told about itthat's a form of activism and a form of power. So we just need to control that power, and that might be at the voting booth, I think. [Laughs] And we have so many politicians and political candidates who march; it's no charge. But we try to keep the playing field as level as possible.
WCT: When you say "we try to keep the playing field as level as possible," who are "we?" Is there a board?
TF: There's not a board, per se, but there are a lot of people who help the whole time.
WCT: There's no question the past two years have been very trying for everyone, and we've all had time to self-reflect. What have you learned about yourself?
TF: Oh. [Laughs]
When Richard died, we had been together for 48 years. [Pfeiffer died in 2019 after battling cancer for two years.] I had not lived by myself very much for any of my life. All of a sudden, to have that isolation put on you because of COVID, was mind-boggling. So I suppose what I have learned from all that is a bit of self-awareness and self-preservation.