As she surveyed the colorful crowd on a pristine late-summer Saturday at Naper Settlement, Amy Jackson said: ‘There’s something really special about something like this happening on the lawn of the across the street. It’s in your zip code. It’s your community. And it’s really beautiful.
Like thousands of other people in the western suburbs, Jackson, a senior marketing and advertising associate for Naperville-based inclusive publisher Sourcebooks, was attending the second annual Naper Pride Fest to show his support for the local LGBTQ community.
She and several other attendees commented on how they had to travel to downtown Chicago for an event like this. Not anymore.
“Look (that), everyone is smiling. It’s a beautiful day. The sellers are smiling. Everyone is happy,” said Margie Wolf, executive director of Naper Pride.
The event raises money — and awareness — to one day build an LGBTQ community center in or near Naperville that would have inclusive health services, Wolf said. Around 5,000 people were expected for Saturday’s rally.
“These are our people. They are our neighbours,” she said. “The Naper Pride name represents everything we are. Naper Pride – Naper proud. We live here. We don’t just celebrate the LGBTQ community. We celebrate where we live. We love where we live.
Several musical acts were scheduled to perform, including R&B singer Jody Watley and Brian Justin Crum of “America’s Got Talent” fame, and among those in attendance were Governor JB Pritzker and U.S. Representative Bill Foster, D-Naperville. There were also many artists, food vendors and advocacy groups.
Pritzker praised Illinoisans for appreciating the importance of embracing all residents, regardless of sexual orientation.
“It’s easy to say we’re lucky to live in Illinois…a state where the majority of residents believe in equality and the fight to end sexism, homophobia and discrimination. transphobia,” Pritzker said. “But luck actually has nothing to do with it. It’s the tireless commitment of activists and our welcoming residents, all of you, to make sure we propel our state toward true equality.
He cited work the state has done to support the LGBTQ community: inclusive programs in schools, Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming surgery, gender-neutral language on birth and marriage certificates, decriminalization of HIV, and coverage infertility insurance.
“Because unlike (Gov.) Ron DeSantis in Florida, here in Illinois we say gay and we do it proudly,” Pritzker said, referring to a Florida measure that some call a “Don’t Say Gay” – which prohibits classroom lessons. instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity to children from kindergarten to third grade.
Naperville’s Kyan Keenan said it’s nice for young LGBTQ people to see other people like them instead of just online or a handful at school that they could relate to.
“I’ve always thought Naperville was LGBTQ-accepting, but I think this really shows Naperville’s acceptance for the kids,” said Tricia Kidd, of Naperville.
Dressed in the colors of the rainbow, Cera Lamas and Tea Rose, both of Naperville, came to experience Naper Pride after attending similar events in Chicago. They were thrilled to have a festival like this closer to home.
“They’re welcoming and open in Naperville,” Lamas said.
Giles Bruce is a freelance writer for the Naperville Sun.