Naperville planning inaugural India Day Parade

The inaugural India Day Parade in Naperville will be a sign - a musical, colorful, spicy sign - of the Indian community's growing presence in the state's fifth-largest city.

When it steps off at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16, along Center Street at 4th Avenue near the Naperville Metra station, organizers say the parade will showcase Indian heritage with music and dance followed by a festival with ethnic art, apparel and food.

"The parade symbolizes Indian culture," said Krishna Bansal, chairman of Naperville Indian Community Outreach, which is organizing the new event. "It's on Independence Day for India and it's more to celebrate the culture, celebrate the heritage, celebrate the city - that's what we're going to be doing."

Organizers said they expect as many as 10,000 people to line the four-block stretch of Center Street between 4th Avenue on the north and its southern end at Central Park to watch an hourlong parade featuring cultural organizations, clubs, businesses, religious groups and political organizations.

"We have a lot of excitement to come to this event," Bansal said.

After the parade concludes, Naperville Indian Community Outreach will host a celebration with dance performances, Indian cultural clothing and art for sale and roughly 25 food vendors selling Indian cuisine from various regions.

"India is such a diverse country by itself," Bansal said. "There are so many subcultures within India and we are going to have representatives of most of them."

The food is "a little spicy, but it'll be fun," said Nimish Bhatt, vice chairman of Indian Community Outreach.

The parade has the support of the city of Naperville, which will be represented by Mayor Emeritus George Pradel as parade marshal and Mayor Steve Chirico as a chief guest aside Indian Consul General of Chicago Ausaf Sayeed.

"I think the community's ready for it," Indian Community Outreach member Saily Joshi said about the parade.

Organizers are welcoming businesses, homeowners associations, nonprofits, dance groups and cultural organizations of all ethnicities to visit and sign up to walk in the parade. Joshi said organizers are hoping for 100 units in the event's first year.

Naperville also will mark Indian Independence Day by hosting its eighth annual flag raising ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 15, at the municipal center, 400 S. Eagle St.

The inaugural India Day Parade comes nearly two years after Pradel created volunteer positions within the mayor's office for Indian Community Outreach and Chinese Community Outreach, because residents of Indian and Chinese heritage make up a combined 11.3 percent of the city's population, according to 2010 census data.

"Indians are now a significant part of Naperville's population," Bansal said, "both in numbers and impact."

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