Showing our roots
By Kalyn Belsha firstname.lastname@example.org September 8, 2013 7:44PM
Performers demonstrated traditional Indian dance at the Roots Aurora festival Saturday. Kalyn Belsha~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 10, 2013 6:23AM
AURORA — At the Roots Aurora festival Saturday, skirts twirled and shoes tapped as dozens of dance performers — from Mexico and Bhutan to Greece and India — took the stage to show off their cultures and connections to the city.
The festival attracted about 2,000 people five hours into the event, with proceeds benefitting Family Focus Aurora, the organization that hosted the event, in partnership with the city, the Aurora Historical Society, the Hispanic Heritage Advisory Board, the African American Heritage Advisory Board and West Aurora School District.
Many attendees said the festival was a visual representation of the ethnic and cultural diversity in Aurora that isn’t seen on a daily basis because groups rarely come together at once.
“These are new bridges that are being built,” said Gonzalo Arroyo, who helped organize the festival and directs Family Focus Aurora. “This is needed in the community. The thing I’ve been hearing is that people would like to see this keep happening.”
Arroyo said the event not only promotes economic development by bringing in attendees from outside the city, but helps to open a dialogue about Aurora, and perhaps change people’s perception about the city.
The event, which was held at RiverEdge Park from noon to 9 p.m., featured performances by numerous singers and dance troupes, food from Aurora’s many communities and a talent show.
“People are loving the performances,” said Mireya Luna, a program coordinator at Family Focus Aurora who helped at the event. “A lot of people have not been exposed to this.”
Luna collected satisfaction surveys from festival attendees and said the feedback was mostly positive. The only complaints were that some people wanted more shade and more promotion before the event. Because the venue is relatively new, Luna said, some people had trouble finding the festival.
Mary Clark Ormond, president of the Aurora Historical Society’s Board of Trustees, said the festival was a good time to look at Aurora’s rich history of immigration, which reaches back as far as 1850 when Luxembourg immigrants first came to the city, followed by waves from Romania, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
She saw the event as a good time to approach new groups that have yet to share their histories and stories with the society.
“I’m looking at these people and saying ‘You’re next,’” she said as she watched the dance troupe performing traditional Indian dance, adding the society doesn’t have much information about Aurora’s Indian community yet.
As he sat on a bench and listened to a reggae performance, Clifton Mason said he saw the event as a good way to showcase Aurora’s diversity and show that it is a good place to live, raise a family and send children to school.
“You want your children exposed to multiple cultures and to appreciate them,” he said.
He also saw the event as an extension of the city’s recent efforts to rebrand itself.
“I think it accentuates the personality of the city,” Mason said. “I think this is what Aurora is all about and this is a good prelude to repositioning ourselves.”