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Hawks On Parade

June 13, 2010

No city does a parade like Chicago. Go ahead and argue otherwise all you want, my opinion shall not be swayed.

Two days ago I attended the Blackhawks’ victory parade and rally in Chicago. It was a memory I shall always have.

In a day filled with stunning visuals, I suppose my first glimpse of downtown Chicago was a fitting precursor of what was to come. As we walked up the stairs from the Millennium Park train station out into the city, I was greeted by a sea of red. Everywhere one looked, Hawks shirts and sweaters were to be found. I honestly have never seen so many people in one place. It was an astounding mass of humanity.

Almost every part of the mile long parade route had people elbow to elbow. We found one of the few areas with some open air and chose to watch the parade from that vantage point. As we waited for the parade to start, we watched as people began climbing light poles and stop lights to get a better view. The festivities began late, but as one Hawks fan put it, “I’ve waited 49 years for this, what’s another thirty minutes?”

One thing I love about cities that traditionally have large Irish populations (Boston, Chicago, New York, etc.) is they always find a way to work bagpipes into ceremonies. For some reason, bagpipes seem to make everything better. The parade kicked off with bagpipes along with men carrying the American, Canadian, Irish, Illinois, Chicago and Blackhawks flags. These men heralded in a moment Hawks fans have been waiting a long time for.

Not much really to be said about the parade itself. It was a fantastic thing to watch as the double decker buses filled with Hawks’ players, personnel and legends rode through the city. What I enjoyed the most was listening to Hawks fans banter back and forth as certain buses passed us. There were snickering remarks made about Huet, comments discussing the legends (a lot of attention paid to Roenick’s crying) and happiness that our wait was over. It honestly felt like one giant club where we all shared the same inside jokes.

As the final bus passed us with Toews, Kane and the Cup, we noticed people were jumping the barrier and following them down Michigan Avenue. The police tried to keep people back, but after a few moments they just moved out of the way and let people through. I excitedly ran onto Michigan Avenue behind the bus. As I was walking down this famous road, confetti began shooting as the Hawks neared the stage. I can honestly say that walking down the street amongst all of the confetti falling on my head with the Stanley Cup in front of me and one of my favorite places around me was something I will never forget. There are not words for those moments.

I’ve been having a lot of moments like that recently.

As the crowd gathered around the stage, we slowly tried to get through the mass to a point where we could hear the speakers and see the screens. Neither of those really happened. If I had it to do again, I would have held up my group near the speakers so we could at least have heard some of the speeches. Instead, as though the Cup was drawing us closer, we kept moving towards the stage. Fighting the extreme heat, the drunks and anything else that stood between us and that stage. It was not until the very end of the rally that the taller ones in our group could see the screens and once we passed the speakers, there was no hope of hearing anything. I had wanted so badly for my friend to see the rally, but with her being 5’3″, it was nearly impossible. Towards the end of the speeches I resorted to taking pictures every few minutes to give her a glimpse of what was going on.

While all of this is going on, we noticed that a street sweeper painted in Hawks colors was advancing down the street next to us. Although I would later come to understand why it was there, it basically made no sense to me at the time. Of course it being a mass gathering of people (estimates have placed it at 2 million) with many of them consuming alcohol, it was only a matter of time before people began climbing the parked vehicle. Again, the police tried to keep people off of it, but gave up after various failed attempts.

Then it happened. One of those moments where you witness them on TV, but are never actually there for. Those atop the street sweeper began showing off to the crowd. The mob did not react well to this. Within seconds of this starting, beer bottles and water bottles began being flung at the show-offs. A few minutes later, the mob had done what the police couldn’t, keep people off the street sweeper.

Eventually though people in the crowd began climbing the sweeper again, but learning from their predecessors, chose to just watch the rally instead. While it did in time become what appeared to be an impromptu frat house, the gathering went by without incident.

From what I’ve read, there were 2 million people at the parade and the police didn’t report any sort of violence. To me, that really says something about the character of the Midwest. While other cities tend to flip cars, start fires or loot after a team wins, for the most part the Midwest isn’t like that. We just want to gather, celebrate and make sure everyone has a good time. Now the notable exception is Detroit, but in their defense 30% of the city is on fire at all times, so it’s not really any different when they have a team that wins something.

I did later find out the purpose of the street sweeper being in the crowd. Once the parade ended, my friends and I walked around downtown Chicago and just enjoying the day. On our way back to the train station, we walked down Michigan Avenue again only to notice that a mere matter of hours later the stage, set up for the parade and the confetti was gone. That clean up job was simply mind blowing. If we had not been there only three hours earlier, I wouldn’t have believed two million people gathered there for a parade in the same day.

As we stood at the corner of Michigan and Randolph, we heard a large commotion being made from other Blackhawks fans. While approaching the corner, we noticed they were yelling across the street and seemed to be looking at the middle of the road. That’s when we heard one of them shout, “Johnny Toews! He’s a hero in this town.” It was at this point we realized they were yelling at a car sitting in the turn lane, being driven by none other than Mr. Toews himself.

What a hell of a way to end the day.

If you’d like to see all of the pictures from the parade, simply click here. If you’d like a high-res version of one of the pictures, let me know and I will get it to you.

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