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Pride Fest draws LGBTQ community — and supporters like Gov. Pritzker — to daylong Naperville party – Chicago Tribune

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 across the street. It’s in your ZIP code. It’s your community. And that’s really beautiful.”

Like thousands of other people from the western suburbs, Jackson, a senior marketing and publicity associate for the inclusive Naperville-based publisher Sourcebooks, was attending the second-annual Naper Pride Fest to show support for the local LGBTQ community.

She and several other attendees commented on how they used to have to travel to downtown Chicago for an event like this. Not anymore.

“Look at (this), everybody’s smiling. It’s a beautiful day. Vendors are smiling. Everybody’s happy,” said Margie Wolf, Naper Pride executive director.

The event is raising funds — and awareness — to one day build an LGBTQ community center in or near Naperville that would have inclusive health services, Wolf said. About 5,000 people were expected to attend the Saturday gathering.

“These are our people. These are our neighbors,” she said. “Naper Pride’s name is everything about who we are. Naper Pride — Naper proud. We live here. We’re not just celebrating the LGBTQ community. We’re celebrating where we live. We love where we live.”

Several musical acts were slated to perform, including R&B singer Jody Watley and Brian Justin Crum of “America’s Got Talent” fame, and among those in attendance were Gov. JB Pritzker and US Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville. There were also numerous artists, food vendors and advocacy groups.

Pritzker lauded the people who live in Illinois for evaluating the importance of embracing all residents, regardless of sexual orientation.

“It’s easy to say that we’re lucky to live in Illinois … a state where a majority of residents believe in equality, and the fight to end sexism and homophobia and transphobia,” Pritzker said. “But luck actually had nothing to do with it. It’s the tireless commitment of activists and our welcoming residents, all of you, to make sure that we’re propelling our state forward toward true equality.”

He cited the work the state has done to support the LGBTQ community: inclusive curricula in schools, Medicaid coverage for gender affirming surgery, gender-neutral language on birth and marriage certificates, HIV decriminalization and infertility insurance coverage.

“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 labeled by some as the “Don’t Say Gay” law — that bans classroom Instruction on sexual orientation and gender identification to children in kindergarten through third grade.

Kyan Keenan, of Naperville, said it’s nice for LGBTQ youth to see other people like themselves instead of just online or a handful at school with whom they might identify.

“I’ve always thought of Naperville as accepting for LGBTQ, but I feel this really demonstrates for kids the acceptance that Naperville has,” said Tricia Kidd, of Naperville.

Decked out in the colors of the rainbow, Cera Lamas and Tea Rose, both of Naperville, came to check out Naper Pride after having attended similar events in Chicago. They were excited to have a festival like this closer to home.

“They’re welcoming and open in Naperville,” Lamas said.

Giles Bruce is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

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