Naperville's India Day festival, parade celebrate culture
Growing up in Naperville, Krupa Desai doesn't recall her Indian culture being celebrated in her community.
Other than her relatives, she didn't know many kids or families who were Indian, she said, and the only exposure she had to Indian traditions was through her family.
Now, having just moved back to Naperville last year, 27-year-old Desai says she is amazed at the growth and establishment of the city's Indian community. She and her family participated Sunday evening in the second annual India Day Parade and Celebration.
"Before, it seemed like we weren't really in touch with our culture because there wasn't much going on around us, so it's nice that we can get that now," Desai said. "It's crazy that there's this huge Indian community. It brings everyone together."
Social and civic integration is the goal of event organizer Naperville Indian Community Outreach, Treasurer Viral Shah said. With Monday being India's 70th Independence Day, he said, the parade gives community members, businesses and religious groups a chance to celebrate their traditions with Indian flags, colorful floats, decorations, music and dances.
"We wanted to get more involved, more integrated," Shah said. "The importance of the parade is just that -- to bring about happiness and celebration."
About 90 units were featured in the milelong parade, which kicked off at Naperville Central High School.
It was followed by a large festival at Knoch Park, where popular Indian singer Sunidhi Chauhan, who also served as the parade's Grand Marshal, performed a free concert. Calling the concert a "game-changer," Shah estimates more than 15,000 people from throughout the suburbs and beyond were in attendance.
"(The concert) was a brainchild that happened to spring up a few months ago, and once that happen, it got legs of its own," he said. "The turnout has been phenomenal."
The festival also featured vendors selling Indian food, clothing and jewelry, Shah added, as well as a children's area with face painting and other activities.
Naperville residents Navneet and Monika Gulati said their family attends many of the city's parades and festivals, such as for St. Patrick's Day and the Fourth of July. The Indian Day celebration, they said, exposes them to different music, traditions and organizations.
"It's important for our kids to learn about different cultures," Navneet Gulati said.