A longtime Auroran whose singing voice has uplifted innumerable hearts and minds, and a pair of Aurora restaurateurs so attached to their cultural roots that three generations of their family hold dual citizenship in the homeland, will be honored as Cultural Champions at the 2019 Roots Aurora festival, to be held Friday, September 6, 2019 at the Water Street Mall in downtown Aurora.
Barbetta Neil credits her career as a gospel artist to growing up in a singing household, where her parents performed in a gospel quartet and drew her into the art form at the age of 4. By the time she was at Waldo Middle School in Aurora, she was leading gospel groups, and she has directed choirs of all kinds, taught voice and led musical worship throughout the Fox Valley area for four decades and counting.
A regular presence at City of Aurora events as well as at bible-based churches, high schools and the entire gamut of festivals, weddings and funerals, she is especially dedicated to what she calls “old-school gospel”, the music that grew straight from the spirituals of slavery time, as well as traditional hymns.
Jeff and Cindi Reuland, whose Reuland Food Service is synonymous with homestyle delicatessen food and catering in Aurora, are so proudly Luxembourg (they both trace their ancestry to the same town in Luxembourg) that even their 4-year-old granddaughter can proudly show you her dual U.S./Luxembourg citizenship papers. As stalwarts of the nationwide Luxembourg American Cultural Society, they regularly host visiting dignitaries from that country and themselves have traveled frequently to Luxembourg. They have sponsored cultural initiatives like the statue of the great Luxembourg-American patriot Bernard Cigrand, preserved authentic old country recipes, many of which they have shared with the public at Aurora Historical Society ethnic events, and are enthusiastic raconteurs of the role of Luxembourgers in Aurora history.
Tightly knit into their home town (he is a graduate of East Aurora High School and she of Madonna High School) their children Brigit and Ryan are major operators in the family business and, like the little 4-year-old, hold a dual citizenship in the land of their ancestors.
The 2019 Cultural Champions will be introduced at the Roots Aurora festival at 5pm on September 6. The Aurora Historical Society will have a display depicting the history of African American and Luxembourger citizens in Aurora. Other events throughout the evening will include a youth talent show, folk dances and musical performances. Ethnic food vendors and artisans will be offering their wares. The festival coincides with the First Fridays arts walkabout in downtown Aurora.
The Cultural Champions award is intended to spotlight present-day individuals who preserve and present the traditions of their ancestors who helped to build the city of Aurora from its earliest days.
For more information see www.rootaurora.org.