'Together Under the Big Top' the theme of first Naper Pride Fest

Updated 2/10/2020 8:44 PM

"Coming Together Under the Big Top" is the theme organizers have chosen for the first Naper Pride Fest set for this summer to celebrate the city's LGBTQ community.

The event is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 22, with a vintage circus motif and a goal of bringing visibility to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, or have nonbinary gender identities or sexual orientations.


"We are proud of who we are and proud as the LGBTQ+ community," said Tommy Varela, director of strategic planning for Naper Pride, a nonprofit organization now in its second year. "And in a larger sense, we're proud to be in Naperville and proud to be in this flourishing, really great suburban city."

Organizers plan a full day of circus performances (by people only, no animals) and concerts from noon to 10 p.m. and are in negotiations about hosting the event on Naper Settlement grounds.

Naper Pride members originally wanted to have a picnic but were told they would need city permits to host the crowd of roughly 500 they expect to attract.

"We decided if we have to get all these permits, we might as well throw a festival that Naperville deserves and that we dream of," Varela said.

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The event will include local food vendors and businesses, as well as wandering jugglers and acrobats. The day will begin with sensory-sensitive hours from noon to 2 p.m. in partnership with the Turning Pointe Autism Foundation and Little Friends for people who want to experience a "smaller, quieter" version of the full fest, Varela said.

Through the city's Special Events and Cultural Amenities Fund, supported by a citywide food and beverage tax, Naper Pride is receiving $83,536 to offset festival costs.

Eva-Genevieve Scarborough thanked city council members for their support during a meeting last week, saying now is the time for the city's LGBTQ residents to become more outspoken.

"For a long time, we have, of necessity, kept a low profile because who we are by nature was considered too controversial," Scarborough said.


But that's beginning to change for people of many identities.

"We commit to being a visible and ongoing part of the process of making Naperville better," Scarborough said.

The Naper Pride group has been increasing visibility since last year with events such as a health and wellness fair, a movie night and a game night. Varela said the gatherings have started "to build community and give people a place to meet others who understand what they're going through and who they are."

These people are often called "chosen family" within the LGBTQ community.

"I've been surprised how many people don't have that yet in Naperville," Varela said. "It's because a group like this hasn't existed."

In its first year, Naper Pride did not host a large-scale pride fest, such as the long-standing Gay Pride Parade in Chicago, or the new Aurora Pride Parade that started in 2018. Scarborough said Naperville's event will enforce "modest dress codes" in a family-friendly atmosphere.

"This pride fest is for all of Naperville to come together and celebrate," Scarborough said.

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