When it began 70 years ago, the Bud Billiken Parade consisted of a couple dozen floats, cars and bands. Since then it has emerged as the nation's premier African-American pride parade, drawing hundreds of participants from around the state.
The scope of the traditional back-to-school parade also has changed to include a huge picnic that some liken to a grand family reunion.
The event is named in honor of the Billiken, a mythological character from black folklore who was considered a friend and protector of children. Though the years, it's become a celebration of the African-American family spirit.
City, county and state officials are expected to be on hand as well as political hopefuls.
The parade is also an opportunity for youth from housing projects and areas often associated with violence and tragedy to show off their talents. Parade-goers should see everything from jugglers to dancers to precision marchers.
The parade, which begins at 39th Street and King Drive and ends at 55th Street near Washington Park, will be televised locally. It is expected to attract more than one million spectators. The Bud Billiken picnic is to take place in Washington Park immediately following the parade.
Spectators are urged to use public transportation to avoid traffic congestion.
Sheppard is a Chicago Tribune staff writer.