It’ll be a sea of rainbows when the inaugural Aurora Pride Parade steps off at 12 p.m. June 17 in downtown Aurora.
“This is unique in that it's the first of its kind in the western suburbs, and it's long overdue in a city of Aurora's size and diversity,” said organizer Gwyn Ciesla. “Other communities have begun planning their own celebrations, such as Bolingbrook, and we couldn't be more pleased.”
The City of Lights’ first pride parade was officially approved in March and is hosted by Indivisible Aurora.
“The genesis of the inaugural Aurora Pride Parade was in discussions around commemorating the first anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub tragedy,” said Ciesla, who is director of Indivisible Aurora’s LGBTQ and Alliance team. “There was discussion between a few Indivisible Aurora board members, myself included, and a unanimous vote of those present at a full member meeting. Then I filed the paperwork, and planning began.”
The parade is designed to be welcoming to everyone.
“The broad motivation for this event is to show support for the LGBTQ members of our community, but our particular focus is LGBTQ youth,” Ciesla said. “While many have supportive families and schools, not all are so lucky.”
While support can be found in big cities, suburbs may not always have such resources.
“Young people simply face challenges reaching Chicago,” Ciesla said. “Something closer to home is not only more convenient, but reinforces the feeling that their community embraces them.”
The parade lineup starts at 10 a.m.
“We should have approximately 60 units in the parade, varying between floats, vehicles or groups of walkers,” Ciesla said. “Wear sunscreen, and bring your friends and family. Everyone is welcome.”
The parade route starts at South River Street and West Benton Street and continues southeast on West Benton Street to northeast on South Broadway to northwest on West Downer Place, ending on South River Street and West Downer Place.
“It's expected to meet or exceed crowd sizes for other Aurora parades,” Ciesla said. “It will absolutely be family-friendly. My kids will be there.”
Scott Mackay and Danielle Tufano, weekday morning show hosts at radio’s 95.9 The River, will emceeing the parade.
Some local businesses will be offering Pride specials all day, including Leland Legends Pub and Grill, Rocktown Adventures, Tecalitlan Restaurant, La Mina Mexican Grill, Doughballs Pizza Palace, Zen Loft Wellness Center, Balavi Salon Signature, The Web Tavern, Gillerson’s Grubbery, Wyckwood House Market and La Central Bakery. There also will be food trucks on South Stolp Avenue, between West Benton Street and East Galena Boulevard.
Free HIV status checks will be provided by Open Door Health Center of Illinois, 1 E. Benton St.
Indivisible Aurora is a community advocacy group founded in February 2017.
“Indivisible Aurora is focused on issues that will make a concrete difference in the lives of Aurorans, particularly those who are members of marginalized communities,” Ciesla said. “This is evinced by our three largest efforts to date, which have been supporting immigrants, the Pride Parade, and working toward ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.”
Aurora Pride T-shirts will be available for purchase on a first-come, first served basis at the parade for $15.
Inaugural Aurora Pride Parade
When: 12 p.m. June 17
Where: downtown Aurora
Jen Banowetz is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.