Kane County History: Roots Aurora Seeks 2019 Nominations For Aurora Cultural Champions

Kane County History: Roots Aurora Seeks 2019 Nominations For Aurora Cultural Champions

Eva Kontos (center) with members of the Apollo Dance Troupe, Greece.

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was written by Mary Clark Ormond, president of the Aurora Historical Society. All images are courtesy of the Aurora Historical Society.

A city like Aurora, 185 years old and a center of industry for much of that time, has layers upon layers of ethnicity, many of which have  been all but forgotten.

Tom Schindelbeck and Mr. Brummel representing the American Independent Luxemburger Club, Anthony Stanford (author, African American) and Arturo Velasquez (cultural patron, Tejano).

There are the English, the German, the French, the Luxembourger, the African American, the Jewish, the Irish, the Romanian, the Latino, the Greek, the Italian, the South Asian … the surnames are still around, but not so much of the old cultures.

When the Roots Aurora cultural festival was begun by the family support group Family Focus in 2013, the founders decided that in addition to showcasing the food, entertainment and crafts of Aurora’s ethnic groups, they also wanted to pay tribute to individuals who have worked to preserve and promulgate the traditions of what the Aurora Historical Society terms “the heritage nations.”

Dan Dolan (striped shirt) supporter of Irish cultural initiatives, Ireland.

Thus was born the idea of Cultural Champions.

And so far, 28 Aurorans have been honored for passing down traditions like authoring books and studies, founding a dance company, teaching language to children, crafting authentic Christmas ornaments, putting on traditional holiday observances, sponsoring summer culture camps, producing and selling traditional foods, maintaining social clubs, doing research, curating museum exhibits and directing city of Aurora ethnic advisory boards.

Past Honorees

Krishna Bansal (in white), former chair of the Indian American Community Outreach Advisory Board for Aurora, India.

Past honorees, from 2013 to 2018, have been:

  • African American: Anthony Stanford, William Bigham, Onwa Olieh, Ricky Rodgers
  • France: Josette Smith
  • Maria Lozano, educator and organizer of Latino children’s events, Mexico.The 2019 Roots Aurora festival will be held from  5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, on the Water Street Mall in downtown Aurora.

    Germany: Ed Schleining

  • Greece: Eva and Michael Kontos, Penny Panayiota Deligiannis
  • Puerto Rico: Mirna Lopez-Freitag, Emilio Berrios
  • Mexico: Maria Lozano, Jesus Sanchez, Gonzalo Arroyo
  • Panama: Rene Cruz
  • Tejano: Arturo Velasquez, Alejandro Benavides
  • Ireland: Dan Dolan
  • Italy: Anthony J. Prisco, Guy Prisco
  • Jewish: Marilyn Katz
  • Luxembourg: James Michels, David Frieders, American Luxemburger Independent Club
  • Romania: Viola Moldovan
  • India: Krishna Bansal, Prakasam Tata
  • All nations Aurora history research: Michael Fichtel.

Nominations for this year’s Cultural Champions are open until Aug. 15. Guidelines and instructions can be found at http://www.rootsaurora.org.

Read The Kane County History Series!