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Aurora's 1st Pride Parade draws thousands
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by Carrie Maxwell

=After months of planning by Indivisible Aurora members and approval by the Aurora City Council Government Operations Committee during a Feb. 13 meeting, Aurora held its first Pride Parade June 17.

Despite the sweltering heat, nearly 100 degrees, more than 5,000 people descended on downtown Aurora to take in the festivities.

Ahead of the parade Indivisible Aurora Founder/Executive Director Chuck Adams (who spearheaded the parade) said, "We are ecstatic at the turnout in terms of participants and thrilled how this community has come together and rallied around the LGBTQ community for this celebration."

The parade stepped off at River and Benton with the Grand Marshal, Paramount Theatre Artistic Director Jim Corti leading a contingent of about 60 parade entries. Paramount Theatre supporters marched behind Corti wearing tee-shirts in the colors of the rainbow flag.

"I like leading this whole charge for Pride," said Corti. "I do not feel worthy in any way but to be chosen for this role is a great honor and privilege."

Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin walked the parade route and greeted parade-goers. Gov. Bruce Rauner marched, as did representatives from Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker's campaign. Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster marched alongside Democratic congressional candidates Sean Casten (running in the 6th District) and Lauren Underwood (running in the 14th) as well as other elected officials and candidates.

"Today is a great day in the city of Aurora," said Irvin. "There is so much energy and excitement. This parade truly represents what Aurora is by including everyone."

"I am delighted to be here," said Casten. "I think this will be the most fun parade this year. I just wish I did not have to wear long pants."

"I am so excited to be here," said Underwood. "How could we not participate in this inaugural parade. We got all of our friends in the community to walk with us, to show we are inclusive, welcoming and celebrating love. It is hot out here but our hearts are warm."

Parade emcees and 95.9 The River weekday morning show hosts Scott MacKay and Danielle Tufano introduced each contingent as they passed by the reviewing stand. This elicited cheers from the nearby crowds.

Marchers from Mom's Demand Action held signs and chanted "Disarm hate," while the Everytown for Gun Safety group chanted "Trump, Pence must go."

Association of Latinos/as Motivating Action (ALMA) and Vives Q, both of Chicago, joined forces to march. ALMA Board President Julio Rodriguez said of their participation in the parade, "I am very excited about being a part of this parade because Aurora has one of the largest Latinx populations in the state. We think it is really important come to these events to show our support for the community."

"Vives Q is excited to join our Latinx LGBTQ community in Aurora to mark this historic moment," said Vives Q Founder Emmanuel Garcia. "It is imperative that we send a loud message that we're everywhere and are part of the tapestry of communities across Illinois. Especially in this moment of heightened attacks on our communities."

Planned Parenthood of Illinois External Affairs Manager Julie Lynn said, "We are super excited to be a part of Aurora's first Pride Parade. We want to make sure the people of Aurora would be able to live their best, happiest, healthiest lives. It is important that everyone is equal wherever they go and be able to access the healthcare they need no matter who they love/how they identify and we are here for them."

"We are so happy to be in this parade," said PFLAG Aurora/Fox Valley Vice President Lynn Steele. "We have had a chapter here for over 20 years and are hoping that people notice us and make even more use of our services."

When asked about the parade, Waubonsee Community College Spectrum (LGBTQ+ student group) Vice President Neil Horne said, "I am extremely proud and happy we have such a large community [at this parade] that we can find fellowship and support, including our allies."

Lakeside Pride Musical Ensemble members closed out the parade with their signature style of performing.

Among the other parade marchers were members of Illinois National Organization for Women, Open Door Health Center of Illinois, Indivisible Naperville, East Aurora HS GSA, Waubonsie Valley High School GSA, West Aurora High School PRIDE Club, East Aurora High School's pride group, Youth Outlook, Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital, Target, ComEd and many LGBTQ-affirming churches.

Hours before the parade began anti-LGBTQ flyers with the slogans "Love kills Pride" and "Homosexuality is a sin" were posted at the beginning of the parade route. They were quickly taken down by parade volunteers. During the parade, a few protestors with anti-LGBTQ signage were stationed across from the viewing stand chanting biblical passages and anti-LGBTQ messages. Five more anti-gays were at the front of the route but LGBTQs and allies stood in front of them and out-shouted their chants.

In addition to marching in the parade, Open Door also provided free HIV tests throughout the day.

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