'Positivity on display': After week of uncertainty, Aurora Pride parade a hit
Despite some eleventh-hour uncertainty and even intermittent morning showers, the Aurora Pride parade made a triumphant post-pandemic return Sunday.
An enthusiastic crowd, many waving rainbow flags, lined Downer Place and cheered passing paraders, enjoying the first parade since 2019.
There was some suspense in the days leading up to Sunday's event. The parade's permit had been revoked because the event did not have the requisite number of police officers. That followed Mayor Richard Irvin's decision to pull out of the parade after organizers asked that officers marching in the parade not wear standard uniforms, carry service weapons or use official police vehicles.
However, the city was able to find additional officers Friday by offering triple pay to work the overtime and extra-duty shifts.
"I'm glad that it all worked out and we were able to have it," said Marianna Kontos, a member of the Aurora Pride organization. "Pride is about the acceptance of not just the queer community, but everybody, and making sure everybody feels loved."
Among the first-timers Sunday was Rich Swierzewski of Berkeley.
"The acceptance, the love, and the atmosphere, everything that is out here, is really just really amazing," he said. "Everyone is very supportive."
The parade included a wide range of participants, among them church groups and advocates for a variety of causes such as mental health and gun reform.
"We have been an open and affirming church for decades," said Brandon Perrine, senior minister of the New England Congregational Church in Aurora. "I feel like it's sort of in our DNA to be aware of progressive issues and to simply be on the right side of justice."
Local business owners also were happy to see parade back.
Susan Guinnane, owner and founder of Offbeat Thrift and Vintage on Downer Place, a business with a strong LGBTQ+ clientele, said the on-again, off-again of the parade made for a "roller coaster of a week."
"It's just nice to see the positivity on display and everybody enjoying downtown," she said.