2019 Aurora Pride Festival looking for sponsors

AURORA — The Aurora Pride Festival is looking for sponsors as planning gears up for its 2019 set of events, scheduled for June 7 through June 9.

With sights set higher than ever, the Aurora Pride Festival boasts numerous events throughout the weekend including a Rainbow Run 5K, Pride Marketplace, opening and closing celebrations, and of course, the Aurora Pride Parade. “It’s ambitious! We know. You powered the 2018 event and we need your help to power the 2019 event as well,” says Chuck Adams, Executive Director of Indivisible Aurora, in a letter to past and future sponsors. “There will be art, speakers, poetry, music, vendors, running, and… oh yes… a larger parade!”

Sponsorships for the 2019 Aurora Pride Parade range from $150 to $5,000+ with sponsor perks such as featured logos on select marketing materials, advertisements across social media, banners along the Pride Parade route, and even named sponsorship of one of the six major events during this family-friendly weekend.

For more information on the sponsorship levels and how to become a sponsor the 2019 Aurora Pride Festival, visit https://www.aurorapride.org/become-a-sponsor/.

All sponsorship payments are due by May 1, 2019.

If you are not looking to sponsor the 2019 Aurora Pride Festival but are interested in donating, a GoFundMe page will be available to accept payments later this week with more information being shared across Aurora Pride’s websiteFacebook pageFacebook group and Twitter account.

Indivisible Aurora receives Community Equality Award from HRC Chicago

CHICAGO — On Saturday, October 27th, Human Rights Campaign Chicago held their annual gala and auction at the Chicago Marriott in Downtown Chicago. Despite the masquerade theme of the night, there was no hiding the joy of the guests, volunteers, and staff that attended the event.

According to the HRC Chicago website, this annual gala and auction celebrates the great strides made for LGBTQ equality across the nation, including honoring local leadership excellence.

This year, Indivisible Aurora, a community advocacy group based out of Aurora, Illinois, was recognized for their outstanding effort in bringing the first-ever Pride Parade to the Chicago suburbs with the “Community Equality Award.” Gwyn Ciesla, Co-Chair of Aurora’s Inaugural Pride Parade and Director of LGBTQ and Alliance with Indivisible Aurora, accepted the award.

Gwyn Ciesla, accepting the “Community Equality Award” from Human Rights Campaign Chicago.
Photo credit: Chuck Adams, Executive Director of Indivisible Aurora

“I’m not sure that any of us who were involved with the Inaugural Aurora Pride Parade could have imagined that we would be where we are tonight. I mean that literally, but also as a community. We’ve all grown as individuals, and as an organization,” said Ciesla upon accepting the award. “Our teams and their captains did an astonishing amount of work over four short months.”

The idea of hosting Aurora’s Inaugural Pride Parade came in June 2017 as the nation approached the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre. It was Ciesla’s wife, Elisa, who suggested it was time to bring Pride to Aurora.

“Aurora is the second largest city in Illinois, with a diverse population, a growing economy, and even a reawakening downtown, complete with festivals, theater, music, and a wide variety of places to eat and drink… Why no Pride?” Ciesla continued, “Almost immediately, support began to appear. We were contacted by a wide variety of people, eager to volunteer, to march, and to help spread the word… who’d been waiting for something like this for many years.”

The parade efforts weren’t met without resistance, however. There were members of the community who sought to block the approval of the Pride Parade application, and on the day of the Parade, marchers were met with protesters, but only a few.

“People of all ages, sexual and gender identities, faiths and walks of life came, and we had a BLAST. We sang, we danced, we laughed. There were some tears, too,” said Ciesla.

Pictured left to right: Penelope Garcia (Gala Co-Chair, HRC Chicago and Member, Indivisible Aurora), Elisa Larche-Ciesla (Member, Indivisible Aurora), Gwyn Ciesla (Director of LGBTQ and Alliance, Indivisible Aurora and Co-Chair, Aurora’s Inaugural Pride Parade), Chuck Adams (Executive Director, Indivisible Aurora), Kimberly Adams (Co-Chair, Aurora’s Inaugural Pride Parade and Member, Indivisible Aurora)
Photo credit: Chuck Adams, Executive Director of Indisible Aurora

So what’s next for the LGBTQ+ community of Aurora?

The date of Aurora’s second annual Pride Parade has been set for Sunday, June 9, 2019. In addition, the Aurora Pride Parade has expanded into the Aurora Pride Festival which will include activities all weekend long including a speaker series, marketplace, 5K, and more.

“We’ll continue to demonstrate to the members of the Aurora family that all are welcome, and to the city at large, that we are a part of that family. We’ll continue to make home feel more like home,” said Ciesla. “We all appreciate Chicago’s Pride celebration, and it’s certainly a cultural landmark, but it’s important to see support like this in your hometown… there’s no substitute for celebrating Pride at home, with your friends, with your family — whether by blood or by choice — in your own community.”

For more information on the 2019 Aurora Pride Festival, visit AuroraPride.org.

Aurora Pride Festival announces logo contest winner

AURORA — Aurora Pride Festival, the Pride celebration in Illinois’s second largest city, announced today that an entry from Alisa Kober of Arlington Heights as their logo for 2019.

Indivisible Aurora announced the contest in mid-July. Alisa came out ahead of 20 semi-finalists. Among the prizes she wins are a $300 cash prize, t-shirt and a spot in the VIP section at Pride in 2019.

The festival is produced by volunteers and will being going into it’s second year in 2019. The response for the contest was huge.

“I think the biggest thing is that we had a lot of fantastic submissions that truly reflected the love of both the LGBTQ+ community and Aurora,” Brittney Borowicz Keller, festival marketing committee leader, said. “It was amazing to see how many people came out to support us as we head into our second year of having a Pride Parade and the first year of having a whole Pride Festival.”

The pride festival, like others that have started up outside of Chicago, focuses on being child and family friendly.

“We are very excited for all the things we are looking to accomplish this year and this new logo and brand representation is a great example of the inclusion, fun, and family-friendly atmosphere that we are looking to promote in the suburbs,” Keller said. “Alisa Kober’s submission really encapsulated all of these things.”

Aurora could be home to 3-day pride festival next year

The success of Aurora's inaugural gay pride parade last month has convinced organizers to try something even bigger next year: a three-day Aurora Pride Festival that would include a 5K race, art exhibition and poetry slam along with a speaker series, small-venue performances and an even bigger parade.

Chuck Adams, the executive director of Indivisible Aurora and the driving force behind this year's parade, said organizers always hoped to turn the event into a weekend-long celebration, but first wanted to prove that a family friendly parade could be a success in the Western suburbs.

"We thought maybe we should be a little less ambitious and nail the parade part of it first" before pitching the idea of a three-day fest, he said.

With their success, organizers now have submitted a letter to the city asking to hold a parade again on Sunday, June 9, 2019, and to include the other activities on the Friday and Saturday leading up to it.

The proposal still must be approved by the city council, but Mayor Richard Irvin already has endorsed it.

The parade, Irvin said in a written statement, brought "new levels of unity, energy and pride to Aurora. It was well organized, fun and family-friendly. All along the parade route, I spoke with people -- some with tears in their eyes -- who repeatedly thanked us for being the host city."

Adams said organizers were confident in their ability to pull off the inaugural parade, but even they were surprised by how most of the community embraced the idea.

"The explosion of love and acceptance was really very personal and emotional," he said Monday. "It's the unity and vibe of love and positive outpouring of acceptance that we hope to expand on."

If they get council approval, Adams said the key change next year will be a kickoff event on Friday evening where organizers will talk about the agenda for the weekend, introduce the parade Grand Marshal and have a keynote speaker serve as a "primer to get everything going."

The parade would serve as the grand finale on Sunday.

As with this year's parade, he said, the event would maintain a family-friendly air.

"This isn't Chicago," Adams said of Aurora. "It doesn't have Chicago's brash."

Adams says he was encouraged by the number of youngsters he saw waving rainbow flags at the parade and by the participation of 11 churches and a synagogue. Organizers are hoping to get sponsors for many of next year's events to provide both money and volunteers for some of the events.

Not everyone embraced the parade, Adams says, but the vast majority of the feedback his team received was positive.

"We really embraced the community," he said, "in a way it hasn't been done before."

Aurora Pride Parade may expand into weekend-long festival

Organizers of the Aurora Pride Parade have submitted a letter of intent to expand the parade into a weekend-long festival for 2019.

Indivisible Aurora has submitted to have another parade on Sunday, June 9, 2019.

In addition, the letter of intent proposes expanding the event into a weekend-long Aurora Pride Festival with the parade on Sunday, a kick-off event on the evening of Friday, June 7, and a full day of activities on Saturday, June 8, including a 5K race, a vendor market, an art exhibition, a poetry slam, a speaker series and a film festival.

“The inaugural Aurora Pride Parade is now a celebration for the history books,” said Chuck Adams, founder and executive director of Indivisible Aurora. “I can tell you that our team is already looking forward to a more expansive event for 2019.”

The proposal has received the endorsement of Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin.

“The parade was an outstanding success," said Irvin. “Not only did it exceed expectations, it helped to bring new levels of unity, energy and pride to Aurora.”

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin greets the crowd during the Aurora Pride Parade June 17. (Sean King / The Beacon-News)

Irvin went on to say the event was “well-organized, fun and family-friendly.”

“All along the parade route, I spoke with people — some with tears in their eyes — who repeatedly thanked us for being the host city,” Irvin said. “If there is an opportunity to expand that feeling of pride in our city and inspire people to celebrate and patronize businesses in Aurora all weekend, I’m all for it.”

The city even announced the intent of Indivisible Aurora in a city news release this week.

According to the release, the letter of intent is an administrative procedural step in the city's event planning process.

After a complete application is submitted, it must be approved by the City Council.


AURORA, IL - This week, organizers of the inaugural Aurora Pride Parade submitted a Letter of Intent to the City of Aurora requesting to hold the next Aurora Pride Parade on Sunday, June 9, 2019. 

“The inaugural Aurora Pride Parade is now a celebration for the history books,” said Chuck Adams, founder and executive director of Indivisible Aurora. “I can tell you that our team is already looking forward to a more expansive event for 2019.”

In addition, the Letter of Intent proposes expanding the celebration into a weekend-long Aurora Pride Festival with the parade on Sunday, a kick-off event on the evening of Friday, June 7 and a full-day of activities on Saturday, June 8, including a 5K race, vendor market, art exhibition, poetry slam, speaker series and film festival.

The proposal has received the endorsement of Mayor Richard C. Irvin. 

“The parade was an outstanding success," said Irvin. “Not only did it exceed expectations, it helped to bring new levels of unity, energy and pride to Aurora. It was well organized, fun and family-friendly. All along the parade route, I spoke with people – some with tears in their eyes – who repeatedly thanked us for being the host city. If there is an opportunity to expand that feeling of pride in our city and inspire people to celebrate and patronize businesses in Aurora all weekend, I’m all for it.”

The Letter of Intent is an administrative procedural step in the City's event planning process. After a complete application is submitted, it must be approved by the Aurora City Council. 

Guest column: Pride Parade in Aurora hits all the right notes

The inaugural Aurora Pride Parade is now a celebration for the history books. It was, simply put, a great day for Aurora and the Fox Valley area. And as the leader of Indivisible Aurora, the parade organizers, I can tell you that our team is already looking forward to a more expansive event for 2019.

None of the dramatic dire portents of those opposed to the parade materialized. It was peaceful, inclusive, loving and family friendly — as we said it would be. In short, it was a celebration carefully curated from the beginning to align to the values of our community. As our APD contact shared with us after the parade, “No one went to jail or to the hospital. It was a good day.”

But history never just happens. It takes vision and dedication to push it along. Accordingly, I’d like to take the balance of this space to thank the army of people involved in making history happen in Aurora.

Thank you first to the co-chairs of the Organizing Committee, Gwyn Cielsa and Kimberly Adams (my wife). You two were the steady hands of this project. Everyone looked to you for guidance and leadership and you delivered. Without you two this doesn’t happen.

Massive thank you’s to their section captains: Wendy Connell, Kimberly Crivello, Erik Franzen, Brittney Keller and Bob Koverman. Thank you to their many volunteers — about 80 of them — all of which gave their time to something they thought bigger than themselves. To our many valuable sponsors, patrons and supporters, a huge thank you!

Thank you also to Mayor Richard C. Irvin and his staff for their enthusiastic support of the Pride Parade, to the Aurora Police Department for their professionalism and dedication to public safety, to the Special Events Team (Gina and Mike, you know who you are!) for helping a bunch of newbies wrangle this beast of a project.

To the nearly 3,000 people who marched in the parade — wow. Thank you for showing the truly loving and inclusive face of Aurora. Your excitement was infectious.

Chuck Adams, director of Indivisible Aurora, said the recent Pride Parade in Aurora was a big success. (Steve Lord / The Beacon-News)

And last, but not least, to the almost 8,000 amazing, loud, proud, wild, goofy, straight, allied, LGBTQ+ spectators who braved the withering heat in an explosive display of love and unity, the intensity of which this town has never seen, goes the biggest thank you. You turned downtown — our town — into a sea of rainbows and smiles and hugs and affirmation.

When we started this endeavor we knew there was a need, in this current political climate, to collectively shout, “Love will win!” To shout to our LGBTQ+ community that it gets better. And man, did you folks shout it! (The parade) exceeded our wildest expectations.

See you in 2019! Love will win. It always does.

Chuck Adams is the executive director of Indivisible Aurora

Keaton: Aurora Pride Parade was a glorious experience – why not bring it to Naperville?

About three dozen people from my Naperville church joined several thousand people in the Aurora Pride Parade on Father’s Day, and it was a beautiful experience.

Old and young, people of all races and ethnicities, LGBTQ folks and cisgender heterosexuals, we marched with balloons and banners and signs and mostly smiles.

We also carried water bottles and misters because the heat index was over 100. But despite the heat, even the police officers in full uniform along the route were cheerful and helpful.

Not that we needed any help from police. Both the marchers and the crowd were upbeat, cheerful and appreciative. From what I read, the idea of Aurora holding the first Pride Parade in a Chicago suburb initially was met with controversy, but there was little evidence of that on parade day.

At the very beginning of the parade route I did hear shouting from a handful of people holding signs urging people to “repent,” but they stayed on the sidewalk, in their small group, and exercised their right to free speech without infringing on anyone else’s.

The rest of the crowd lining the streets was more than welcoming, as you might expect – who turns out to stand in that kind of heat unless they are truly committed to an issue? Most of the time, people applauded warmly as our group passed them, shouting out words of support or sometimes joining our “Love wins” chant.

Overall, the whole thing was quite festive. My group included a baby in her mother’s arms, young kids on scooters, teens and young, middle-aged and retirement-aged adults. We wore matching yellow T-shirts and pinned rainbow flags to our shoulders like capes. Many of us had painted faces, and a few wore multicolored tutus or ribbons or buttons.

It was fun to see the colors others were wearing, what their signs said and what group they were representing as we milled around the gathering spot or in the parking lots after it was over. (The bad thing about being in a parade is you don’t get to see the whole thing, but we got a good sense of it).

Organizers had asked that parade entries be family friendly, and they were. While Chicago’s parade has a reputation for its wild costumes (or sometimes the lack thereof), Aurora’s had more of a family feel typical of other parades in the suburbs.

I did see a couple of wilder outfits, but only a couple. It was a well-behaved group, and the messages were overwhelmingly positive and affirming.

It would be a mistake to assume that only members of the LGBTQ community were represented. Gov. Bruce Rauner marched, as did the Naperville Township Democrats. Several other Naperville groups were represented, including groups that work with LGBTQ youth.

We were told that 11 churches were represented, too, which surprised a lot of people who think of religious institutions uniformly as homophobic or unwelcoming or even condemning. I can’t speak for them all, but I know our church has redoubled its efforts in recent years to be welcoming of all people, and not to just think that but to say it out loud and live it.

An Aurora official estimated there were 3,000 parade participants and 5,000 spectators. He would know better than I, but we were a little disappointed that the crowd seemed sparse in some spots. But, taking into account that it was the parade’s first year, it was ridiculously hot, it was Father’s Day and the group planned the whole event in just a few months, I’d say that was a great start.

It actually made me proud to take part and hopeful for our future.

Last year, our group had no choice but the Chicago parade, and only a handful went to represent us. I stayed home for the same reasons a lot of others did – the hassle of figuring out public transportation to get down there, the crowds, the timing. I’m sure many would not want to take young children there because of its reputation for being a bit, um, colorful. And I figured it was too far from our church to really be effective at letting potential members know we’re here.

But having the parade in Aurora, and a little smaller and more manageable, erased those concerns and got me out in the sun at the hottest part of the day. The route was easily walkable at less than a mile – I walked farther before and after getting to my car.

Having experienced it, I now have to wonder why a vibrant community like Naperville doesn’t offer a Pride Parade. We clearly have an LGBTQ community, groups that are set up to serve that community, and a lot of people willing to travel to a nearby city to bake in the heat to show their support.

So what about it, Naperville? Why not express our pride and our diversity right here in our own city?

As our group’s organizer said, wouldn’t it be great if next year we had to choose which of the local parades to join?

Column: Gay pride colors Aurora with a new look

You may have heard: It was an event like no other … at least here in the ’burbs.

“Richard Irvin, you are changing the face of Aurora,” I heard one woman shout as the mayor greeted a crowd of thousands at the city’s Inaugural Gay Pride Parade.

Certainly for one sweltering hot Sunday in June it did change downtown Aurora, where previous parades were known mostly for their staunch patriotic bent against a background of red, white and blue.

But this time, rainbow-colored flags were the colors of choice. And while those Memorial Day and Fourth of July events are certainly upbeat and fun, there was something almost joyous about the mood Sunday.

Whatever your feelings are on liberal causes or progressive movements, it was as clear as the blue skies that accompanied those 90-plus degree temperatures, those taking part in this parade, either marching or watching, felt a sense of liberation many of us likely take for granted.

Not that there weren’t some more traditional elements, including plenty of politicians who took part in the event. Still, the impression I got from Sunday’s crowd was a rejection of politics. Elected officials and those running for office, for the most part, received a lukewarm reception, as did an activist group marching with a huge sign and bullhorn that proclaimed “Trump Pence Must Go.”

The crowd’s enthusiasm — and there was plenty of it — was saved for the everyday folks marching in this parade whose only agenda was promoting unity and acceptance. Thousands from Fox Valley churches, corporations, businesses and other groups held banners and signs that proclaimed diversity and love, All cultures, colors and ages were represented in the streets and on the sidelines.

That included a surprising number of seniors who likely never thought they would see the day they could so publicly celebrate their own sexual identity; and far younger generations, many adorned from head to toe in rainbow colors and not the least bit shy about stepping into the limelight.

Two of those millennials were Ashley Larsen of Maple Park and Sam Miller, from Bloomington/Normal, whose banner — “I was a girl once. Turns out it was a phase” — received plenty of attention, even from marchers themselves who repeatedly shouted out, “I love your sign.”

The two onlookers decided to brave the heat and attend this Aurora parade because, as Miller described it, this weekend’s Gay Pride Parade in Chicago is “just too big and too scary.”

As the promoters had promised, Aurora’s event — the mayor’s office estimated the crowd between 7,000-8,000 — was tame by any standards. Yes, there were some protesters. And I personally saw a few attendees struggling because of the heat. But there were no major police or fire department issues, according to officials. And I was told later marchers were specifically told to keep their shirts on, which explains why we saw so few bare-chested men, despite the brutal temperatures.

A couple of politicians who have marched in myriad parades over the years told me later this one was the most fun and the most celebratory.

“Everyone wants to be validated in some way,” said State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit. “This one just touched people on a more deeply personal level … it said we accept you for who you are.”

It was certainly personal for “Mary” — the anonymous wife I wrote about in a column more than 20 years ago after her husband came out as gay; and who would not reveal her real name back then because of the stigma attached to homosexuality.

After I referred to “Mary” again in a column I wrote last week about Aurora’s gay pride parade, she contacted me. The Aurora woman, whose real name is Pam Olsen, said she and her ex-husband went through some rough times after splitting, but happily they re-connected at their daughter’s 2013 wedding and are now “good friends who love and respect one another.”

And both were at the parade. Holding a rainbow umbrella, Olsen proudly marched in step with New England Congregational Church, while her ex looked on from the sidelines.

Olsen told me she was pleasantly surprised by the impressive turnout and rousing reception the marchers received during the colorful and vibrant event.

“All the cheering and applause … It was just the most fun,” she said. “I could not believe how much support there was.”

So much so that I’ve heard from various sources other communities would like to get more involved, even proposing changing the name to reflect it as a Fox Valley event.

To which the city’s Director of Communications Clayton Muhammad quickly replied, “Of course we welcome all of our Naperville friends to come to downtown Aurora … for the AURORA Pride Parade.”


The weekend heat wave is cooling down this morning but Paramount Proud led Sunday’s first ever, history-making Aurora Pride Parade participating with over 300 marchers in our own ranks! I still haven’t come down from riding that wave, the tsunami of love, that lifted the hearts of everyone there! Tim Rater and his beautiful family was joined by our office staff, production and box office teams, our many casts of actors, musicians, designers, technicians, ushers, families of Paramount patrons, subscribers and friends, all organized by Artistic Associate and Casting Director Trent Stork with our Director of Education and Community Engagement Shannon Cameron. Indivisible Aurora’s initiative led by Chuck and Kimberly Adams and Gwyn Ciesla with The City of Aurora’s Mike Nelson, brought our city and Pride Parade together. The sweltering almost 100 degree heat in no way discouraged these crowds to cheer all of the representatives marching from churches, high schools, colleges, community activists, hospitals, counseling and law offices, and professional and commercial businesses. You had to be there to really grasp the incredible sensation, the thrill, of seeing masses of people living up to Mayor Irvin’s mantra, “One Aurora”! 


The crowd’s roar lifted up the shy and quiet, the bullied, the young people struggling with feeling depressed, shamed and marginalized and were embraced by our parents and pastors and political leaders of our loving community that danced in the streets of The City of Aurora where everyone is included! 


So imagine what it was like walking ten feet off the ground into auditions yesterday morning! Paramount’s The Producers‘ choreographer Brenda Didier gave us even more reason to dance: Ensemble dance callbacks! Tap dancing, jazzy, balletic, Broadway razzmatazz! Another long day into a late night but full of gut-busting laughs from a gathering of superbly talented musical comedy artists! Gotta make a run for it right now for Day Two!

Love & thanks,