Annual No Pants Subway Ride is Sunday

RedEye

Every year at about this time, Justin Hardesty of Edgewater dresses in a priest costume and hops on the CTA's Red Line at the Loyola stop in Rogers Park with dozens of other riders.

Somewhere on the North Side, Hardesty typically drops his pants and reveals two pairs of underwear—black-and-white striped boxers on top of white briefs.

He rides the Red Line until he reaches the Roosevelt stop in the South Loop, participates in a dance party and boards a train back to the North Side, pantless all the while.

This year will be no different. Hardesty is the longtime organizer of the Chicago edition of the No Pants Subway Ride, a global event started by Improv Everywhere, an improv group in New York more than a decade ago. The event doesn't raise money or awareness for anything other than having fun riding the train without pants, Hardesty said.

"It's to cause a little bit of a scene but not to offend," said Hardesty, 35, who has been participating in the Chicago no-pants ride for eight years and has organized the event for six years.

This year, Hardesty expects 125 to 175 riders to meet at 11:55 a.m., at a parking garage at 1210 W. Arthur St. in Rogers Park before heading to the nearby Loyola Red Line stop.

CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski said the agency is aware of Sunday's event. Hosinski didn't immediately know whether the event has generated rider complaints. Hardesty said his event hasn't caused problems in the past and he informs the CTA about his plans ahead of the event.

"Everyone has underwear. Everyone is legally appropriately dressed," Hardesty said. "We're not out to offend. We're out to give people something to talk about."

Here's how it works: Participants who show up at the parking garage meeting point (wearing pants) are assigned a Red Line station to take off their pants. The entire group then heads over to the Loyola Red Line stop and boards the train by 12:30 p.m.

Just before the rider's assigned stop, he or she is encouraged to drop his or her pants and get off the train and wait at the stop until the next southbound train arrives. The rider then boards that train and takes it to the Roosevelt Red Line stop to join a group dance party. After the celebration, revelers then get back on a Red Line train to head back to the North Side.

Hardesty tells participants to make sure their private parts are covered. The goal is to try to keep a straight face amid stares of riders wearing pants. Also, costumes are not encouraged, though Hardesty likes to wear his priest outfit over two pairs of underwear, which he prefers to one pair.

"I don't know if I want just one layer of fabric between me and the CTA seat," Hardesty said.

Last year's event drew 110 participants, Hardesty said. Hardesty said he generally counts more participants when the weather is colder than usual.

The National Weather Service is predicting sun and a high of 28 degrees Sunday, an improvement over this week's single-digit temperatures.

"There's not much bragging rights when the weather is better," Hardesty said.

Twitter: @tracyswartz

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