A festive parade on Aug. 13, marked by scores of floats and numerous local performers in Naperville, Illinois Aug. 13, marked the celebrations for India’s 70th Independence Day. According to organizers, Indian Community Outreach, around 20,000 people attended and participated in the event.
The Naperville celebrations featured a one-mile festive parade that started at 4 pm from Central High School culminating at Knoch Park. More than 200 volunteers were deployed at multiple locations along the route to facilitate the flow of the parade and answer questions from the spectators.
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, Mayor Steve Chirico of Naperville and Schaumberg Trustee Nimish Jani attended the event. The largest sponsors were of the event were SWAD and Patel Brothers.
According to a press release from the Republican Hindu Coalition, President Trump also recognized the India Day celebration in Naperville. “Thanks to the irreplaceable contributions of Hindu and Indian Americans, the future of our valued partnership has never looked brighter, and we continue to foster even greater cooperation for future generations,” The RHC quoted President Trump as saying, in its press release.
Governor Rauner in a statement proclaimed Aug. 15, as ’70th Anniversary of Indian Independence Day in Illinois.’
“Whereas as a growing democracy India is an inspiration and beacon of hope for people around the world for continuing to stand firm in its belief for democracy, freedom, diversity, and the rule of law. the people of Illinois with ancestral ties to India continually demonstrate the greatness and beauty of India and their contribution reflects success in every walk of life.” The social, economic and cultural contributions of Indian-Americans, he said, “greatly increased the quality of life for all Illinois residents.” He ended the proclamation with the signature Hindi slogan “Jai Hind, Jai Hind.”
At the celebrations, local dance performers took the stage from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. followed by the parade kick off. There were more than 80 floats representing a variety of business, religious and cultural organizations.
Apart from the impressive decorated floats, there was an international food court with a large variety of cuisines, an ethnic Indian bazaar featuring ethnic dresses and jewelry booths, and a local talent show.
In the words of a young participant Shruti who was waving a small hand-held tri-color flag, “This is the third year of the Indian expat community gathering and celebrating Indian Independence Day in Naperville, but this is the first time I saw so much enthusiasm and emotion from the public.” She was attending the parade with her grandparents who were visiting from India. Her parents remarked that this was a unique way to introduce people from different ethnic backgrounds to Indian culture. The celebration drew a crowd of diverse ethnic, racial, and cultural backgrounds, making it an international event.
Naperville has recently taken center-stage in the growing Indian expat community in Chicagoland. The India Day celebration was conceptualized when then-Naperville Mayor George Pradel created the Indian Community Outreach organization in 2013.
The floats in the parade were a way to experience the diversity of the Indian diaspora in Chicagoland. They featured the ‘look and feel’ of many Indian states like Maharashtra, Odissa, Chhattisgarh and their people; playing varied music and displaying colorful clothes. “We got 80 entries (for floats) out of which around 40 participated,” Girish Kapoor from Indian Community Outreach told Desi Talk.
Enthusiasm of the public gathered along the parade route was palpable. According to a former ICO board member Saily Joshi, told Desi Talk, “We had thousands of people watching the parade, eating, visiting vendor booths, and dancing to Mika Singh. For many of us, we did not volunteer for the recognition, but for the community to come together to celebrate our heritage and our pride.” Joshi was especially thankful for the volunteers, young and old, who worked “with a smile” to make it a successful event.
The controversy over statements made by India’s Bollywood singer Mika Singh relating to Pakistan, appears to have been put aside by the community as he came on stage and performed to a cheering crowd. Singh went live on social media right before stepping on the stage, so that people who could not attend the concert enjoyed his live video performance of the first patriotic song of the evening – Mere Desh Ki Dharti. His concert was followed by an impressive fireworks display concluding the celebrations.