New spot for Diwali Festival of Lights in Aurora
Spurred by the need for more space and parking, organizers of the sixth annual Diwali Festival of Lights in Aurora have moved this Saturday's celebration from its usual spot to Metea Valley High School.
The celebration had been held at Waubonsie Valley for the past five years, "but we needed more room," said Gautam Bhatia, chairman of the city's Indian American Community Outreach Advisory Board.
Bhatia said the celebration marking the Hindu new year will be held from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at Metea, 1801 N. Eola Road.
The first year, he said, roughly 1,500 people enjoyed the festival's music, dance, food and shopping opportunities.
"Last year, we estimated throughout the evening we had 4,500 to 5,000," he said. "We've come a long way. It's grown over the years. The city is very supportive."
The idea of the festival, he said, "is to showcase what India is about. We are the fastest growing minority in Aurora."
Bhatia said the festival is scheduled during the season that proceeds Diwali, but not on the holiday itself, which is Oct. 27.
"We wouldn't celebrate it on the same day because everybody celebrates it at home. It's the most major holiday in India. It's celebrated worldwide wherever there are Indians," he said.
The story behind the holiday revolves around an exiled ancient king's triumphant return after 14 years, Bhatia said.
"The Diwali Festival is about the victory of good over evil. It's a celebration because he brought prosperity and peace in the land," he said. "The Hindus consider the day after Diwali as the beginning of the new year."
The evening will begin at 5:30 p.m. inside the school's gym with vendors opening their booths to shoppers. Bhatia said visitors may purchase food, jewelry and clothing.
There also will be a raffle with more than $500 worth of prizes. Tickets are available online at http://AuroraDiwali2019.EventCombo.com.
After a prayer and the singing of the national anthems of India and the United States, performers will take the stage.
"We'll have historically significant dances," he said. "There's a Bollywood mix. We have surprises in store from a culture perspective."
There will be an art contest and a presentation of awards, including college scholarships for high school graduates through the 2019 Swami Vivekananda Scholarship program, which recognizes academic accomplishments and community service. Bhatia said scholarships are supported through the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley.
Bhatia said people of all backgrounds and religions are welcome at the free event. About a third of those usually in attendance are non-Indian, he said.
"The idea is to bring the community together," he said.
If you goWhat: 6th annual Diwali Festival of Lights
When: 5:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19
Where: Metea Valley High School, 1801 N. Eola Road, Aurora
Info: facebook.com/IACOAB and aurora-IL.org/IACOAB