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The Bud Billiken Parade through the years

Here is a look back at the history of this beloved annual event in Chicago.



Images of kids catching candy from parade floats, drum lines, and the aroma of grilling hamburgers all bring to mind quintessential American summertime activities. Chicago’s annual Bud Billiken Parade includes these elements.

The Bud Billiken Parade, which has been going strong since 1929, claims to be the largest African American parade in the United States. Like the New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses Parade and the Thanksgiving Day Macy’s Parade, it is one of the three largest parades in the United States. Marching and dancing through the streets of Chicago on the second Saturday of August is a tradition for those taking part in the annual Bud Billiken Parade.

The fictional character Bud Billiken was created in 1923 by Chicago Defender newspaper founder Robert Sengstacke Abbott and editor David Kellum as a mascot for a local youth organization they had founded. In the early 20th century, mythical good-luck figures known as “Billikens” were widely worshiped. The idea for the Bud Billiken Parade originated when Kellum wanted to throw a party for African-American youth.

The parade, like many other 2020 public events, was called off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Myiti Sengstacke-Rice, chair of the Bud Billiken Parade and CEO of Chicago Defender Charities, said, “As our community continues to recover from the effects of the pandemic over the past couple of years, it is exciting that we are able to come together this year and celebrate the students of Chicago as they head back to school.”


On August 13, 2018, the 93rd annual Bud Billiken Parade will begin. The origins of this cherished yearly tradition are explored here.