LGBT Halloween tradition brings crowds

By SpencerRoush

As she has in previous years, Miss Foozie, a female impersonator with a white, untamed wig and sparkling makeup, plans to greet everyone at this year’s 13th annual Northalsted Halloween parade with her cheery trademark greeting, “Hello Pineapples.” Thousands of people are expected to flood the streets and sidewalks for the Oct. 31 celebration.

Miss Foozie, who has emceed the event for the past three years, has been mending her Queen of Hearts costume to match the Alice in Wonderland theme of this year’s Boystown parade.  On Halloween night, she will be joining dressed-up Chicagoans and out-of-state visitors who come to the parade for costume contests, people-watching and other night club events in the Boystown neighborhood. The parade  is set to kick off at the corner of Halsted Street and Belmont Avenue, which can be accessed from the CTA Red Line Belmont stop two blocks west.

Jim Ludwig, president of Triangle Neighbors, a branch of the nonprofit Lake View Citizens’ Council, is scheduled to host the Halloween celebration. He said the parade is to start at 6 p.m., an hour earlier than last year, and will travel along Halsted Street north to Addison Street.  The parade has been lengthened to accommodate a larger crowd.  This year’s parade is expected to bring in more people than in the past because it’s on a Saturday.

“Halloween is a very big holiday in the gay community; it always has been,” said Robert Hoffman, general manager of SPIN Nightclub, 800 W. Belmont Ave. “The parade just helps build upon something that has always historically and traditionally been a big event in the gay community.  The fact that it’s going to be on a Saturday just means it’s going to be even bigger this year.”

Ludwig said the parade has been growing rapidly over the past few years because it has a reputation as a great entertainment value and location for Halloween.

The Lake View Citizens’ Council, local businesses and associations, such as the Northalsted Business Alliance and SPIN Nightclub, are major sponsors of the parade. They will be donating all of the proceeds from the celebration to the construction of Space Park, 815 – 817 W. Roscoe St., a new Lakeview garden park scheduled to open in early 2010.

Hoffman said the Northalsted Halloween Parade is more popular than parades in the rest of the city because it offers diversity that is welcomed in the gay community. He said it also brings out a lot of visitors that normally wouldn’t come to Boystown because of its unique reputation.

“I definitely think that it actually has a similar effect as the Gay Pride Parade,” Hoffman said. “If people want to go out and celebrate Halloween or go to a parade or something like that, it’s natural for them to want to come to the gay community because they know the flamboyant aspects of the gay community make for great entertainment value.”

Ludwig said with all of the new people coming to the parade, it normally brings in business and generates revenue for the local clubs and bars.

“Because it’s a Saturday, we figured that the tavern and the shops will get increased traffic,” Ludwig said. “It just brings more people into the neighborhood for that time. So they’ll come to the neighborhood, hang out, eat and drink. Then afterwards, it’s crazy, all the places around are filled up.”

According to Ludwig, most of the businesses in the area host their own costume events on Halloween night, which also bring people out to participate in the event and get dressed up. He said the costumes are always interesting.

Miss Foozie said people wear creative and outrageous costumes and she has seen many trends throughout the years.

“I have a feeling we’ll probably be seeing a lot of Michael Jacksons,” Miss Foozie said. “It all depends on what’s popular. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them dress up as me because I’ve seen a lot of Miss Foozies out there too, which is very flattering.”