Naper Pride will hold its inaugural pride fest event, "Coming Together, One CommunityOne Naperville," on Sept. 11-12.
Incidentally, "Coming Together, One CommunityOne Naperville" is also Naper Pride's organizational philosophy of complete inclusivity.
"Naper Pride is a family-centered, Naperville-focused, celebration of LGBTQ+ members of our city and community," said Naper Pride co-founder/ Executive Director Margie Wolf. "We are a four-year-old 501(C)(3) founded by my wife, Andi, and [me] out of a desire to bring critical resources for the LGBTQ community to Naperville and the surrounding area.
"Our ultimate goal is to build an LGBTQ+ community center that will support our residents, and create a path to physical and mental wellness in a safe and supportive environment. Community service is our responsibility and our passion."
Since its inception, Naper Pride has embarked on a number of initiatives to help Naperville and the surrounding communities. They include:
Providing 250 people who were negatively impacted by COVID-19 holiday meals;
Supporting LGBTQ+-owned small businesses that were struggling during the pandemic:
Instituting a holiday outreach to 300 senior citizens;
Organizing volunteers to help restore downtown Naperville following a peaceful protest that turned violent;
Assisting an LGBTQ+ individual with their legal services and path to citizenship;
Donating household items to furnish four apartments for LGBTQ+ youth; and
Partnering with local medical providers to ensure that the community has access to health and wellness resources.
All of the donations and proceeds from Naper Pride's events are used to support the LGBTQ+ community.
The upcoming Pride fest resulted from a desire to create a family-friendly weekend of entertainment, activities and food provided by local eateries. Wolf said the goal is to bring the community together from all walks of life to celebrate inclusivity and the contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals.
"When we first started planning Naper Pride Fest, it was not long before we realized that we did not know how to make the vision in our heads for this event a reality," said Wolf. "On the advice of Naperville SECA commissioner Shannon Robb-Greene, we started interviewing event-management companies. We met with Hank Zemola and Bruce Buzil of Chicago Special Events Management (CSEM) and immediately knew we had the perfect partnership.
"CSEM is particularly skilled in producing LGBTQ+ events and are responsible for some of our favorite and most well-known celebrations like the Chicago Pride Parade, Pride in the Park and the Chicago AIDS Walk/Run. They also are responsible for events closer to us, like Lisle's Eyes to the Skies. We felt they had the perfect blend of LGBTQ and suburban event management to bring our dream to life."
There will be a memoriam to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack at 11:00 a.m. Naperville City Councilman Benny White, DuPage County Board Member Dawn DeSart, and Illinois House of Representatives member Janet Yang Rohr will be the memoriam guest speakers. Area LGBTQ+ first responders will also be recognized.
Among the numerous food vendors will be Blackhawk BBQ, Enrique's Place, Cebollita Grill and Mid-City Grill. Live music featuring a Grammy-winning headline artist, The Voice and American Idol finalists and many others as well as a circus-themed event (no clowns or circus animals) with jugglers, magicians and other acts will take place throughout both days.
Additionally, Wild Illinois will be on hand with native Illinois animals from Big Run Wolf Ranch to discuss preserving natural habitats, the benefits of these animals and how humans can successfully live in their environment. Also, DuPage County Forest Preserve representatives will speak about Illinois trees and plants and how to plant native gardens as well as the importance of preservation.
The vendor area will have GSA, Youth Outlook and 360 Youth Services booths; neighboring town's Pride organizations booths; health and wellness resources; and a specific area for Naperville's small businesses, crafters and others.
LGBTQ+ beneficiary organizations for this event include Youth Outlook, 360 Youth Services, and SAGE Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders.
The Sept. 11 (11 a.m.-10 p.m.) and Sept. 12 (11 a.m.-6 p.m.) festivities will take place at Naper Settlement Museum, 523 S Webster St., Naperville. On Sept. 12, the first hour will be an adjusted sensory time called Lacy's Place for seniors and those who require subdued sensory environments.
"I am so very proud of the Naper Pride leadership team and the organization that we have built over the last four years," said Wolf. "We have accomplished a lot in a very short amount of time, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds."
Single-day tickets are $75 for VIP, $15 for adults, $10 for seniors aged 65+ and veterans and free for children ages 6 and younger. Two-day passes are $125 for VIP, $25 for adults, $15 for seniors aged 65+ and veterans and free for children 6 and younger. See www.naperpride.org/.