Roots Aurora on Aug. 31

Roots Aurora

Along with presenting food, music, art and dance from a variety of cultural enclaves in Aurora, the Roots Aurora festival will honor eight leaders of the community who have preserved and shared their own family heritage and in doing so have enriched the culture of Aurora.

A mixture of first-generation Americans and those who trace their families back more than 100 years in Aurora, the group includes business owners, professionals and an artist.

David A. Frieders is a 4th-generation Auroran and radio personality who delved deeply into his Luxembourg heritage through research, travel and the tales of his grandfather.  He is a long-time member of the national Luxembourg American Cultural Society and has worked on many activities in the Aurora chapter.

Mirna Lopez-Freitag was born in Aurora but raised in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.  Returning to her Aurora roots as a teenager, she built her own business, Midwest Occupational Health Management Services while throwing herself into the life of the local Puerto Rican community.  She is president of the Aurora Puerto Rican Cultural Council and a former board member of the Aurora Hispanic Heritage Advisory Board, and is credited with reviving the once-annual Puerto Rican festival and parade and introducing holiday customs from the island.

Guy Prisco is the son of Italian immigrants who arrived in Aurora in 1926 and established the family name as synonymous with the grocery business.  Following a different path, he became an architect, but helped to found the Italian American Club in Aurora and continues to support the cultural activities of the community.

First-generation Aurorans, Dr. Michael and Eva Kontos kept their Greek heritage close to their hearts.  However, when they realized that many young Greek Americans were growing up without understanding the widely varying regional cultures of their homeland they set about creating the Apollo Dance Troupe to teach not just the dances but all aspects of culture.

Maria Lozano was unable to speak English when she arrived in the United States from Monterrey, Mexico, at the age of five.  Today she is the Director of English Language Learners for School District 129 and has gained renown for her innovative ideas such as the children’s book giveaway at the annual Dia de los Ninos festival.  As an educator she also works with parents, teaching seminars such as “How to Navigate the U.S. Education System” and how to achieve citizenship.  She serves on the boards of the Aurora Public Library and Family Focus and is a former member of the Aurora Hispanic Heritage Advisory Board.

William H. Bigham’s mission, in life as well as business, is to increase awareness and knowledge of fine art from Africa and African American artists.  The William H. Bigham Galleries, Inc., with locations at Fox Valley Mall in Aurora and in downtown Chicago showcase fine art, custom jewelry and home décor. He also creates custom artistic awards for corporations and groups, as well as luminaries such as President George W. Bush and Senator Barack Obama.  The list of recipients of awards designed by William Bigham includes Della Reese, Sydney Poitier, Cicely Tyson, Angela Bassett, Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela.

A first-generation American, Krishna Bansal was one of the motive forces in 2014 in establishing the Indian American Community Outreach Advisory Board in Aurora and currently serves as its first president.  The group aims to provide economic, political and cultural benefits for both the Indian American community and the city of Aurora which they now call home.  Founder and principal of Q1 Technologies, Inc. in Naperville, Bansal has served on the Naperville Chamber of Commerce and the School District 204 Foundation.

Instrumental in recently bringing back an Irish festival to the Fox Valley, Daniel Dolan, a principal of the Dolan and Murphy real estate firm, has been a pillar of the Irish Club in Aurora and a supporter of Irish cultural initiatives.

The Roots Aurora festival takes place on Sunday, August 31, 2014 from 1:00 to 8:30 pm at RiverEdge Park, 360 N. Broadway in Aurora.  Tickets are $3, or $1 for those in cultural clothing.  There will be ethnic food vendors and alcohol sales.