Members of several of Aurora's Hispanic community groups are busy planning for the third annual Fiestas Patrias, a three-day celebration of Mexican independence hosted by the Aurora Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Organizers say they're expecting even larger crowds than in the past -- up to 12,000 people over three days -- because theirs is one of the only festivals in the suburbs commemorating Mexican independence.
If you goWhat: Fiestas Patrias Aurora
When: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15; 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16; parade at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 16
Where: North River Street Park, New York and River streets, Aurora; parade steps off at River and Benton streets
Cost: Free; food and beverages for sale
Info: ahcc-il.com or (630) 246-2422
The city of West Chicago canceled its Mexican Independence Day celebration because of a lack of vendors and volunteers, so Jerry Campagna, interim executive director of the Aurora Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said Aurora's event may gain even more of a regional draw.
The free festival will bring more than 15 musical groups, a parade, a flag ceremony featuring banners from Latino countries, and a traditional celebration of Mexican independence to North River Street Park at New York and River streets in downtown Aurora.
It also will include vendors selling Mexican food and other treats, beer tents and a couple new features honoring Latino veterans.
"We're encouraging those who have served our country of Latino origin to walk in this parade so we can honor their service to our country," Campagna said. "We believe this is an excellent way to highlight how Latinos are contributing to this country in a very positive way."
The parade steps off at 10:30 a.m. Sunday from River and Benton Streets and ends at 11:30 on the festival grounds. After an opening ceremony, Latino veterans will be recognized again with a salute on stage.
Campagna worked with Rodrigo Garcia, assistant director for the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs, to add an element of recognition for Hispanic veterans to this year's festival. Garcia said his office assists with such ceremonies to help highlight the positive contributions Hispanic citizens make to American society.
"One of those positive aspects is the service they provide our nation's military, whether they've given the ultimate sacrifice or provided years of service," Garcia said. "This is a token by which our community can come together to recognize their service in a public forum."
Running the three-day event will require volunteer help from about 120 people representing groups including the Northern Illinois Tejano Cultural Society and Aurora University. Tony Martinez, a member of the city's Hispanic Heritage Advisory Board, coordinated volunteers for Fiestas Patrias, who were required to attend a one-day training session Sept. 8.
"I'm just looking forward to having an inclusive event," Martinez said. "To make sure to unify the community of Aurora, the Latino community of Aurora, and just show all the different cultures within our Latino heritage."