Saturday, October 29, 2005

Everybody Loves a Parade

Not too long ago I saw John Norquist, CEO of the Chicago-based Congress of New Urbanism, give a lecture extolling the virtues of traditional urban design as a remedy for suburban sprawl. One of the New Urbanists' big claims is that sprawling suburbia inhibits the spontaneous social interaction that is essential for vibrant urban life.

To demonstrate this point he showed a picture of your standard seven lane suburban arterial highway hosting a parade. It looked like a miserable event: spectators were far removed from the action, lined up in an unpaved ditch with no shade on a sunny day. For Norquist, this was the epitome of the lack of civic connectedness that accompanies dominant forms of suburbia.

Norquist must have been pleased yesterday as Chicago was ground zero for civic parades. The largest event was an outpouring of love and appreciation for the city's heroes of the baseball diamond--the Chicago White Sox. Long eclipsed by the north-side Cubs, the White Sox dominated the major leagues this year, culminating in one of the most awesome displays of mettle as they shut down opponent after opponent in the playoffs.

Mayor Richard J. Daley, a life-long Sox fan, pulled out all of the stops for the city's celebration and the parade itself epitomized the majesty of the city and the selfless nature of the team as it proceeded from the team's stadium at 35th and Shields through a panopoly of Chicago's working class neighborhoods. From Bridgeport to Bronzeville, Chinatown to Pilsen, Little Italy to Greektown and culminating in a ticker tape waltz down the city's financial and governmental strip, LaSalle Street, the players--and more than a handful of corporate sponsors--marched victoriously through the city to lined streets.

According to estimates given by the city, approximately 1.7 million people witnessed the event! In sum, it was a great finale for an excellent season and a fitting tribute to the city, the players, and the White Sox's long-suffering fans.

Congratulations Oswaldo Guillén and the players! As always, Chicago legend Studs Terkel offered insight on the meaning of the Sox win to the city in yesterday's New York Times.

Parading in Chicago didn't stop with the Sox extravaganza. The monthly Critical Mass ride commenced at Daley Plaza at its usual late Friday afternoon time. As a tribute to the legacy of the great US civil rights leader, Rosa Parks, the Mass visited many of the sties of importance in African American history in Chicago.

Its great to see the citizens of Chicago reclaim the streets for a celebration of the city's great cultural and social legacies!