Instagram posts from Aurora's first ever gay pride parade

Thousands lined the streets of downtown Aurora on Sunday as the state's second largest city held its very first gay pride parade.

“For the first time LGBTQ people in the western suburbs have a pride celebration,” organizer Gwyn Ciesla told

The parade featured 60 colorful entries, a limit set by the city, along a half-mile route. Participants included gay-straight alliances, LGBTQ groups, bands, businesses, dancers, politicians and faith organizations. HRC Chicago and Lakeside Pride represented Chicago.

Gov. Bruce Rauner joined in the kick-off festivities, as did representatives from Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker's campaign. The parade grand marshal was Jim Corti, the artistic director at the Paramount Theatre.

The Inaugural Pride Parade, hosted by Indivisible Aurora, was officially approved by the Aurora City Council in March.

The 49th annual Chicago Pride Parade is scheduled for Sunday, June 24 at noon.

(Feature photo from Invisible Aurora/Facebook. Instagram photos used with permission)

Richard Irvin's Weekly Update - June 18, 2018


Attracting thousands of people to downtown Aurora, the inaugural Aurora Pride Parade was hosted by Indivisible Aurora on Sunday, June 17. Mayor Irvin congratulates and thanks Indivisible Aurora Executive Director/Founder Chuck Adams, Parade Co-Chairs Gwyn Ciesla and Kimberly Adams, the City's Special Events Division, all first responders and the entire planning and implementation team on a job well done. The pride, energy and appreciation was palpable. Watch the entire parade here . #OneAurora


Aurora's First Pride Parade In Pictures

AURORA, IL — Aurora reached a historic milestone when it hosted its first Pride Parade Sunday. Throngs of people came out to paint the city rainbow, despite dangerous temperatures and conflicting Father's Day events. Some local police cars even donned rainbow decals during the festivities. 

Some protesters turned out to oppose the event, leading to some brief tense moments throughout the celebration. 

Here's a look at some of the images residents shared on social media to share their love, enthusiasm, and support for the Aurora Pride Parade.

Aurora’s First Pride Celebration

CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s a day some in Aurora call generations in the making.

The community hosted its first Pride parade.

CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross reports most celebrated, but some protested.

The vibrant colors on flags didn’t dull in the sweltering heat.

Aurora’s first Pride parade route stretched less than a mile through downtown.

But to so many, the distance can’t quite be measured.

“It just shows that Aurora has come so far,” said Sue Bohr.

Born and raised in Aurora, Bohr and her wife said they wanted to come to witness history.

“It’s nice and shady here. It’s nice and cool,” said Bohr, who added that before Sunday they’d have to drive to Chicago to take part in a celebration of who they are.

“It gives you chills because it’s something that you can be a part of that you thought would never happen here,” she said.

Thousands lined the parade route cheering on participants, but a handful were not here to do that.

“You are celebrating what god hates,” said one protester.

“I don’t let them get to me,” said Bohr.

“Don’t dance your way into hell celebrating what god hates,” continued the protester.

About a half-dozen protested the march, handing out leaflets and posting flyers condemning those involved.

For about two hours, 60 floats and groups took to the street, including Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.

A first for Aurora, and a milestone for many living there.

Organizers say they’re already considering next year’s activities. Adding they’re hoping to expand events to include not just a parade but a weekend dedicated to the LGBTQ community.

'Acceptance is edging out into the suburbs': Inaugural Pride Parade steps off in Aurora

The lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community from throughout the suburbs attended Aurora's inaugural Pride Parade Sunday afternoon.

It was only four months ago that the Aurora City Council voted unanimously to award a permit for the LGBT Pride Parade.

"Today signifies One Aurora," Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said as he walked in the parade.

The parade stepped off at noon from Benton and River streets and traveled through downtown.

Many of the spectators celebrating their sexuality — accompanied by lots of friends and family — were decked out in colorful beads and leis, and waving Pride flags.

Some said they usually attend the Pride Parade in Chicago.

Clayton Muhammad, Aurora director of communications, said the "One Aurora" theme has been part of Irvin's administration since he first took office in April 2017.

"When we talk about the City of Lights, these rays of lights come in all colors, shapes and forms," Muhammad said.

Muhammad estimated there were some 5,000 parade attendees, along with some 3,000 that were actually in the parade.

A group of people arrive early to view the Aurora Pride Parade in Aurora, IL on Sunday, June 17, 2018 (Sean King/Beacon-News)

Original crowd estimates were reduced in large part due to temperatures in the mid-90s and a heat index in the triple digits, according to officials from Indivisible Aurora, organizers of the parade.

Those who were there said they came to show their gay pride in the suburbs regardless of the weather. Many said the first-ever Pride Parade in Aurora has them feeling hope.

A contingency of friends from Geneva, St. Charles and S. Elgin stood at the corner of Stolp Avenue and E. Benton Street.

"Clearly the city of Aurora embraces its diversity," St. Charles resident Kevin Skeesick said.

Skeesick had only praise for Irvin as a mayor he described as "inclusive" and "supportive" of the LGBT community.

"We have never seen this in the suburbs," said Skeesick, 44. “The parade is a sign that things are changing.

"It's been very slow in my lifetime, but acceptance is edging out into the suburbs," he said.


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Parade Grand Marshall Jim Corti holds up a sign during the Aurora Pride Parade in Aurora, IL on Sunday, June 17, 2018 (Sean King/Beacon-News)

The city of Aurora partnered with Indivisible Aurora, which approached the city about hosting a Pride Parade on Father's Day earlier this year.

Indivisible Aurora Executive Director Chuck Adams, who is an ally to the LGBT community, said it was organized as a family parade. The parade featured various groups, including 11 churches and synagogues.

"For individuals, the parade is a form of affirmation," Adams said.

Skeesick came with about 15 people, but he said the group would have been larger had it not been so hot.

"The hot weather did keep some of our friends away," he said.

About 85 people from the New England Congregational Church led by a 1929 Model T were near the front of the parade.

The Aurora church is considered a "frontrunner" in the LGBT community. It was one of the first churches in the area to have civil unions, church members said.

"We have been open and affirming to everyone," Kris Hasty said.

Hasty, 60, said she has two children with her partner.

"It gives us a little bit of comfort knowing we are accepted in the suburbs. We are thrilled that Aurora has decided to show its pride for the gay community," she said.

Carla Peters was part of the New England Congregational Church. "Today is a day of celebration and acknowledgement of who we are. This is monumental. I never thought this would happen in Aurora," Peters said.

"Aurora is so large we never knew where the support was. My wife and I first found support in the church," said Peters, 55.

The parade grand marshal was Jim Corti, artistic director at the Paramount Arts Theatre. Corti said the parade is a way to recognize a segment of Aurora's population.

"It's also good for young people who are struggling with their identity for us to be a good example, and to let them know we are here for them," Corti said prior to the parade stepping off.

Corti waved a "Got Love" placard to parade watchers along the route.

Zac Strater, 17, said he appreciates that his hometown is the first community in the suburbs to have such a parade.

"It's groundbreaking for the suburbs," Strater said.

Andrea Goudy and Mary Johnson met one another in 1971. The partners now live in Batavia. They drove the parade grand marshal in their red 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier convertible reserved for special occasions.

"The parade represents acceptance and validation," said Goudy, 71.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner was among the politicians that walked in the parade.

"It's wonderful to see the first Pride Parade in Aurora — it's awesome," Rauner shouted.

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, led a contingency of Democrats who marched in the parade as well.

Amanda Zigterman marched representing Community United Methodist Church of Naperville.

"We tell our children love is love," the Naperville woman said. "As a mother I feel anxious because of the heat, but I am happy to be here. We need to show more kindness in the world.”

Yorkville residents Richard Knox and Michael Loberg said the parade leaves them feeling hopeful. The partners found a glimmer of shade beneath a floral basket on the Benton Street Bridge.

"We never thought that we would see a Pride Parade so close to our hometown," said Loberg, 31. "While it feels as though we are getting pushed back at times, we are moving forward.”

Knox, 28, added, "It shows there is still some happiness in the world."

Aurora hosts inaugural LGBTQ pride parade

Rainbow flags, colorful balloons and thousands of brightly dressed people lined the streets of downtown Aurora on Sunday for the city's inaugural pride parade.

Many residents said they had been waiting years for their community to host such an event, which celebrated people of all identities. For the organizers of the Aurora Pride Parade -- the first of its kind in the Western suburbs -- seeing that vision become a reality is both overwhelming and humbling, said Chuck Adams, founder of Indivisible Aurora.

"It's a very emotional day for a lot of us, many of us who are allies of the LGBT community, who have loved ones in that community, or who are part of that community themselves," he said. "I told our members, 'Take a deep breath, exhale, smile and know that you are making history.' That's what we want to focus on right now."

About 60 parade entries made up of nearly 3,000 people braved the 90-degree heat to march along the U-shaped parade route. Participants included members of gay-straight alliances from Aurora-area schools, an LGBTQ alliance from the Aurora Police Department, and groups from the Fox Valley Park District, the Aurora Public Library, various local businesses and faith-based organizations.

Several businesses also offered specials during the day, such as food and drink deals and discounted apparel. A Balloon Creation, an Aurora party supply store, decorated the parade reviewing stand and the mayor's float. It also created large, colorful balloon displays to carry along the route.

"I'm very excited because Aurora is such a large community, and we've needed this for a long time to show that we are with the current times and trends," store owner Lisa Talip said. "For the whole community, I think it's a way of showing their individuality and their love."

A handful of protesters gathered in front of the reviewing stand denouncing the parade. Signs opposing the parade's message also were posted throughout the area overnight, but organizers removed them Sunday morning, Adams said.

"They have every right to exercise their First Amendment rights," he said. "We're going to focus on the people who are here to support the community."

Maritza Felix of Aurora said she attended the parade to set a good example for her children. As a lesbian, she said she wants them to know that they can love and express themselves in any way.

"It's awesome because it shows that we're growing. It shows that people are starting to accept people for who they are," Felix said. "It's OK to show our youth that it's OK to be different. It's OK to be who you are and not have to fight it."

North Aurora resident Vince Zell said it's refreshing to see a pride parade held outside Chicago and hopes the trend will continue. The event brings awareness to the suburbs, he said, and serves as an opportunity to lift up individuals who don't always get the support they need.

"This is the place for all of us to just be one, together," Zell said. "Why stop here? Spread the love from here out."

Aurora holds first pride parade

AURORA, Ill. (WLS) -- 

Thousands lined the streets of west suburban Aurora on Sunday for the city's first-ever pride parade.

"It's exceeded our expectations. We're really, really thrilled. It's history . And all of us involved recognized that," said Chuck Adams, executive director and founder of Indivisible Aurora, a progressive community advocacy group that pushed for the parade permit.

Members of the city's LGBTQ community started planning the parade 18 months ago after wanting to commemorate those killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla.

"We aren't one Aurora until we include everyone. This parade represents something we've never done -- absolute inclusion of every community," said Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin.

While city officials signed off on the parade permit, there were some who protested the event on Sunday morning. Flyers with phrases such as "Love kills Pride" and "Homosexuality is a sin" were put up near the start of the parade route denouncing the event.


Aurora's first ever Pride Parade kicks off Sunday at noon.

"I was coming into town about quarter to six and saw all the signage and I thought, 'Oh cool, someone decorated' and then I got a little closer and I realized what it was, so I was a little taken aback," said Aurora Special Events Manager Gina Moga. "We knew there would be some protesters, but we're prepared for that."

Organizers said they anticipated backlash and there were a small group of protesters. However, their message was drowned out by parade-goers.

"We're called by Jesus to love one another. This morning in worship we talked about loving one another and there's no room for hate. We want to welcome and accept all people," said Rev. John Bell, of Wesley United Methodist Church in Aurora.

The parade is one of many pride festivities continuing in the Chicago area all week. Chicago's pride parade is scheduled for next Sunday.

And while the Aurora parade lacked the crowds and many of the risqué costumes usually associated with pride, people didn't seem to mind one bit. They were excited to have an alternative to Chicago's much-larger event.

"The crowds get so big down there it's really nice to have something here to come to here," said parade attendee Sadie Pristave.

The parade started at noon at River and Benton, with the route going east on Benton to Broadway before continuing left to Downer and ending at River and Downer.

Gov. Bruce Rauner joined in the kick-off festivities. The parade grand marshal was Jim Corti, the artistic director at the Paramount Theatre.

For more about the parade, visit Indivisible Aurora's Pride parade website.

Aurora's first Pride parade steps off Sunday

AURORA, Ill. (WLS) -- 

Aurora will make history Sunday when its first-ever Pride parade steps off downtown at noon. Parade organizers emphasized Aurora's parade will feel different than the one in Chicago.

"This isn't Chicago. Chicago's Pride parade fits Chicago's personality," said Chuck Adams, executive director and founder of Indivisible Aurora, a progressive community advocacy group that pushed for the parade permit. "What we were really careful to do is make sure we had a Pride parade that aligned with the values of this city, so it will be family friendly."

Adams said the idea started after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Florida, where a gunman killed 49 people in 2016. At the time, Adams said community members wanted to pay tribute to the shooting victims and realized there was not a Pride parade in Aurora. From there, Indivisible Aurora, which advocates for LGBTQ issues, gender equality, and immigration and refugee rights, worked to make the parade happen.

"In Aurora, this is an inclusive community where everybody is welcomed, everybody is loved, everybody is affirmed," said Adams. "And, more importantly, for people who are struggling with their sexual identity, is that things get better."

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin has supported the parade.

"Mayor Irvin, being a top leader, really leads by example," said Mike Nelson, Aurora's special events coordinator. "He likes to throw the phrase out, 'One Aurora.' That means everybody."

On Sunday, organizers expect thousands of people to attend.

In all they are expecting 15,000 to 25,000 supporters, 60 parade units, 3,000 parade marchers, 11 faith communities and 80 volunteers.

The Pride parade will take place in downtown Aurora, where business windows are already decorated, welcoming parade goers to stop by and shop. Andria Sosa, a cafe manager at Tredwell Coffee, already feels the support.

"If you call Aurora home and you're a part of this community, it lets you know you have a family no matter what," Sosa said. "I think that's something a lot of people struggle with, so it's nice to have that surrounding community."

One alderman abstained from voting on the parade permit but, overall, the mayor and others supported the move. Sosa added that it's a bold move for the city, especially outside of Chicago.

"I applaud Aurora for taking that stance and not really caring what others have to say about that - so it's really exciting," she said.

The parade grand marshal will be Jim Corti, the artistic director at the Paramount Theatre. If you would like to learn more about the parade, please visit Indivisible Aurora's Pride parade website.

After Years of Secrecy, Aurora's First-Ever Pride Parade Steps Off This Weekend

For nearly 20 years, Peter Thaddeus would go to a room tucked away on the third story of a Chicago-area church, where for a brief time, he could finally be himself.

Now, roughly two decades later, Thaddeus is prepared to walk in the first-ever pride parade for his suburban hometown – a public display he never imagined he’d be a part of.

For so long, Thaddeus was only able to be his true self inside those small walls at Aurora’s New England Congressional Church. The small room was a sanctuary for many like Thaddeus, who was afraid to tell his family, classmates or even many of his friends, that he was gay.

“Before that, I had two people that I knew who were gay,” he said. “But to be in a group of people, not just to hear their experiences, not just gay people but lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, people who I thought had amazing stories and they were able to come out .... If they could do it, I could do it.”

Rev. Gary McCann was one of few who knew about the room. Knowledge of it was kept secret, even from some members of the congregation.

It was intended to be a safe space for those not accepted outside of the room’s walls.

“We just told people this isn’t something to talk about because of the safety issue,” McCann said. Now, outside the four walls of that room, an entire group of people will parade down city streets with pride.

“I’ve already got some of my rainbow gear,” Thaddeus said.

Aurora’s first-ever pride parade will step off Sunday after the city approved an application for the event in February.

Some opposed the proposal but many supported the decision.

Today, the room that once housed so many secrets for many marching in the event this weekend acts as a classroom for students. And many walking Sunday hope there is lesson to be learned from their secrecy.

“Being visible is so important and to get out there and show our pride,” Thaddeus said. “Something about being in their own community is super important. It’s Aurora but it’s the surrounding suburbs too. It’s accessible and it’s a chance to be seen and be out and proud.”