Themes of freedom, integration and community will play out in colorful fashion this weekend during the first India Day Parade in Naperville.
Hosted by Naperville Indian Community Outreach, the new event will feature more than 50 units in an hourlong parade on Sunday, Aug. 16, leading up to a festival in Naperville's Central Park.
If you goIndian flag-raising ceremonyWhen: 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 15
Where: Naperville Municipal Center, 400 S. Eagle St.
Who: Organized by Indian Community Outreach members and Mayor Steve Chirico
Inaugural India Day Parade and festivalWhen: Parade at 2 p.m.; festival at 3 p.m.
Where: Parade on Center Street from Fourth Avenue to Central Park; festival in Central Park, 104 E. Benton Ave.
Who: Sponsored by Indian Community Outreach with at least 50 parade participants, 12 dance performers and 10 food vendors
Cost: Free parade and festival admission; food and cultural items for sale
Naperville has been hosting flag-raising ceremonies to commemorate Indian independence day for the past seven years. The eighth annual flag-raising is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 15, at the Naperville Municipal Center, 400 S. Eagle St. But this year, Indian community leaders wanted something bigger.
"Something that can be a focal point, not just for the Indian community, but to demonstrate what the Indian community has to offer from the cultural as well as from the business (standpoint)," said Krishna Bansal, chairman of Naperville Indian Community Outreach.
Organizers are inviting anyone who wants to experience Indian dance, music, clothing and food to watch the parade starting at 2 p.m. and attend the festival at 3 p.m. The parade will walk south on Center Street from Fourth Avenue near the Naperville Metra station to its end at Benton Avenue where Central Park begins.
Bansal said he's expecting between 5,000 and 10,000 viewers to watch dance troupes, cultural groups, businesses and politicians celebrate India's 69th year of independence from Britain by marching in the parade. About a dozen intricately decorated floats, including one being created by a consortium of 20 technology-related companies in the Naperville area, will be a highlight, he said.
The collection of technological businesses is designing its float around the centerpiece of a rotating cube that displays a message about job creation, said Dinkar Karumuri of Lisle, who works for Senryo, a Naperville technology and management consulting firm.
He said he's excited to participate in the inaugural India Day Parade to promote the talents of up-and-coming Indian entrepreneurs who often don't publicize their accomplishments outside their immediate circle of family, neighbors and friends.
"We've got a lot of entrepreneurs in the Indian community and we do a poor job of letting the world know that we are there, creating companies and creating economy and contributing to the society," Karumuri said. "The Indian community is a very close-knit community that we are, really by nature and by culture, we are really more humble."
Inviting people who aren't of Indian descent to attend and enjoy the parade and festival is the reason Karumuri said he's most looking forward to the large-scale gathering.
"I was really attracted to the fact that we are now trying to really reach out, not just in a closed community event, but in a more integrated community event," Karumuri said. "That's what got me excited."
Sushmita Arunkumar of Bolingbrook said she's also excited so many people are participating in the new parade and festival.
Eight teenage dancers from her Bolingbrook dance studio Nrithyanjali School of Dance will march in the parade. But their real showcase comes during the festival, when they'll take the stage to perform a piece Arunkumar choreographed about the mother goddess.
"We are doing an Indian classical number with a slight fusion twist to it," Arunkumar said.
Bansal said the Nrithyanjali group will be one of 12 featured performers who are sure to show viewers "something you've never seen before" as part of the event's aim to educate other Naperville residents about Indian culture.
About 10 Indian food vendors including Naperville restaurants Indian Harvest and Cuisine of India are expected to sell their specialties, which could give attendees something they've never tasted before, too, Bansal said.
"It's all part of our Indian Community Outreach goals to educate people to create the integration in the community," he said.