2019 Aurora Pride Festival cancelled because of increased costs

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AURORA — The 2019 Aurora Pride Festival and Parade has been cancelled because of increased costs from the city.

Indivisible Aurora made the announcement on Friday in a press release.

From the press release:

Last year’s inaugural Aurora Pride Parade, the first in the Chicago suburbs, was an astounding success. It brought an estimated 10,000-12,000 incredible people together in downtown Aurora, filling our historic streets with love and downtown businesses with celebratory customers. We eagerly looked forward to expanding on that success with a larger weekend festival for 2019 and started work with the city almost immediately afterwards.

What happened?

At the beginning of April, we were told, after months of planning, that our costs for the parade alone were to increase four-fold over last year due to a new city ordinance. That we were told 66 days before the kickoff of festival activities was problematic. Our fundraising model was designed with last year’s economics in mind. While we anticipated an increase we never imagined, nor was it ever suggested, that it would be 4X.

Our Board of Directors carefully considered options. We reached out to sponsors and partners. We discussed cutting back where we could. We looked at every line item with renewed vigor. We worked closely with Mayor Irvin and his staff to identify additional savings. All of this in the hopes of saving the festival. In the end, we could not find a fiscally responsible way forward. Quite simply, the new economics make it impossible for us to ensure that we can stage the kind of Pride Festival that would make Aurora, the LGBTQ+ community we support, and us proud.

While many of the new activities planned were revenue neutral the entire festival was conceived as a whole. We couldn’t cancel parts of the festival without significantly diminishing the festival experience. We also estimated that without the parade as a capstone event the remaining activities would likely suffer greatly in attendance. Because of this our Board of Directors was unfortunately forced to cancel the entire festival.

As you can imagine, we are heartbroken and disappointed for the Fox Valley LGBTQ+ community, our partners and sponsors, and our enthusiastic supporters and volunteers. We’d like to thank them all for their steadfast support. We’d also like to thank the city’s Special Events team, the Aurora Police Department (specifically, Lt. Matt Thomas and his staff), the Aurora Fire Department, EMS staff, Downtown Aurora, the Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Mayor’s Office for their diligent partnerships this past year.

Our immense disappointment is assuaged in some measure by the satisfaction we feel in the continuing impact of last year’s celebration in Aurora. That parade, directly and indirectly, kicked off efforts throughout the Chicago suburbs. Together we proved it could be done and done well locally. Over this past year we shared our information and inspiration with activists and allies in Buffalo Grove, Naperville, Bolingbrook, Mokena, Joliet and Muncie, Indiana. They are all working hard to continue the fight for equality in their communities. We are proud of that. You should be proud of that too.

The theme chosen for the festival was “Promoting the inclusion and support of LGBTQ+ Aurorans through art, entertainment, and conversation.” We thought this was an appropriate theme for 2019 given the coarsening political climate and renewed legislative assaults on LGBTQ+ rights around the country. There is clearly still work to be done. With your support we will continue to be engaged in that work in partnership with LGBTQ+ leaders and allies in the community.

Visit aurorapride.org for additional information and refund details for sponsors, donors and participants. We will discuss the Pride Festival at our April public meeting at 1 E. Benton Street in Aurora on Saturday, April 13 at 1:00 PM.

UPDATE: Aurora’s mayor, Richard C. Irvin, has responded to the cancellation with a Facebook post of his own.

Irvin said in the post that the city had been meeting with Invisible Aurora over the months since last year’s event, but hadn’t given the costs until April 1 of this year. The change in costs is because of a new ordinance.

“The new ordinance was passed by the Aurora City Council on January 22, 2019,” Irvin said. “As part of the ordinance, costs for public safety personnel, security fencing for the parade route and the like are passed along to organizers of private events – such as the Pride Festival – and cannot be paid using public funds through the city.”

This week the city had been working with Indivisible Aurora and had been able to bring costs down 27%. Irvin said that the city was told the budget was $16,000. However, even the mayor’s office has said there is a $10,000 funding gap.

“The city has had a productive working relationship with Indivisible Aurora and its efforts to support the LGBTQ+ community,” Irvin said. “Last year, the city absorbed much of the cost for the inaugural event, but we simply cannot afford to do so – under ordinance and because of equity – using public dollars for private events.”

Public opinion both on the Pride Festival page and the city’s own Facebook page has definitely been in support of the festival. Several commenters pointed out that the ordinance had also lead to the cancelling of the Aurora Puerto Rican Parade and a shorter festival for this year as well. Many were questioning the increase in cost and the timing of when costs were given.

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