For longtime coordinator Richard Pfeiffer, each Chicago Pride Parade amounts to a family reunion for the city's LGBT community.
"I see so many people there that I don't see the rest of the year," Pfeiffer said.
The 49th annual parade, which kicks off from Broadway and Montrose at noon on June 24, will have about 150 entries this year.
"We are a smaller parade," Pfeiffer explained. "Fifteen years ago, we were at 300 entries but the city has put the kibosh on that size for all the parades. From an economic standpoint, it costs so much. What they've been doing the last six or seven years has been passing those expenses on to all of us who produce these parades in the city, so our expenses went up."
Pfeiffer was quick to respond to the criticism that the parade has been over-corporatized.
"The corporate entries are all LGBTQ employee groups within the corporation," he explained. "What's been nice is that we've been able to pair up a lot of our not-for-profits, so that they don't have to pay the entry fee, and the corporation pays it, and they all march together."
Pfeiffer said to expect an uptick in the number of politicians in the parade since it is an election year, but even those have been cut back, he said. Pfeiffer added that organizers work diligently to make sure that LGBT-specific organizations get into the parade.
"We have a long waiting list of corporations to be in the parade," he said. "We say to them, if you are wiling to double up with a not-for-profit, we'll let you in the parade."
Pfeiffer said there were "dozens" of businesses on the waiting list, but none of those were LGBT-specific.
Each parade costs between $200,000-225,000, he said. Most of that money comes from parade entries; the city provides police protection, but the parade organizers pay for security, most of the police barriers, insurance and city fees. Pfeiffer estimated that beginning in the spring, he works about 15-20 hours a week on the parade; as Pride weekend gets nearer, it becomes a 40-hour-a-week job.
Pfeiffer said that, each year, the number of out professional individuals in the parade amazes him.
"In the first years, there were a lot of people who didn't have anything to lose," he recalled. "You didn't get the teachers, doctors and lawyers. It was students and others. But as the world changed, the LGBT community came out more and more."
One of his most moving memories of the parade, he recalled, was about 30 years ago, when a contingent of PFLAG parents marched for the first time.
"As we went down the parade route, applause just became louder and louder," he said. "It was before we had the barricades. Young kids would come running out, hugging the parents. These were kids who'd been tossed out by their parents, and were bullied and beaten. We were all in tears by the end."