The first days of school, the final days of August and the Last Fling in Naperville all signal one thing: The end of summer.
It can be a bittersweet time for anyone who loves warm weather or hates homework, but members of the Naperville Jaycees make it a time to celebrate with its annual festival, this year spanning four days from Friday, Aug. 30, to Monday, Sept. 2.
The event boasts free admission to a family area, carnival and business expo with several eating contests, races for humans and dogs, and local musical performers.
A main stage featuring headliners Jerrod Niemann, the Goo Goo Dolls and Collective Soul is the only aspect of the festival with an admission fee, but beverage tickets will be required for alcohol purchases for the first time this year.
This year's Family Fun Land at Naper Settlement includes even more to do in one area, Last Fling spokeswoman Karen Coleman said, offering families a few last opportunities to celebrate summer.
Here is a sampling of activities planned for this year's Fling:
Even before the Jaycees announced Saturday's headlining act, they were predicting a sellout. The Goo Goo Dolls will take the stage at 8 p.m. after performing at Ravinia earlier this summer, ready to play songs from their long list of hits over the past 20 years.
Touring to promote their latest album, "Magnetic," the band behind hits such as "Name," "Iris," "Slide," and "Black Balloon" was chosen to appeal to a broad group of listeners in the Naperville area who may have fond memories of hearing 1990s hits during their school years, Coleman said.
Collective Soul returns to the Last Fling to perform at 8 p.m. Sunday, and country artist Jerrod Niemann takes the stage at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
Niemann tickets cost $10, Goo Goo Dolls admission is $20 and Collective Soul tickets cost $15. Admission to all three shows still is available, and Last Fling Executive Director Bill Eagan said he suggests buying tickets online at lastfling.org in advance of possible sellouts.
For those looking for free performances, the entertainment stage offers a variety of local performers, including the "Singin' at the Fling" talent contest at noon Saturday.
Families with young children can enjoy a carnival, concessions, a petting zoo, a coldblooded creatures attraction and free acts on the entertainment stage, including performances by McNulty Irish Dancers, World Champion Tae Kwon Do and School of Rock-Naperville -- all without leaving Family Fun Land at Naper Settlement.
Actress Peyton List, star of "Jessie" and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," will be on-site for a free meet-and-greet from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday for anyone who has picked up a wristband beginning at 10 a.m. Friday at the main entrance to Family Fun Land, 523 S. Webster St.
The area also features one of the Last Fling's two business expos, where kids will be able to build Legos or visit the Radio Disney Road Crew.
Racing Big Wheels, beds or even babies; speed-eating spaghetti, apple pie or ice cream; tossing horseshoes, slam-dunking on mini-basketball hoops, even competing with a pooch in disc-tossing and agility contests are among options for Last Fling attendees who like a challenge.
Contests are scheduled at various times from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday throughout the festival, which includes parts of Jackson Avenue, Naper Settlement and Rotary Hill at the foot of the Millennium Carillon in Moser Tower. The Last Fling also includes a sand volleyball tournament, a rib cook-off, bingo for people ages 55 and older and a soccer shootout.
Many of the events -- like the eating contests, soccer shootout, horseshoe toss, slam dunk contest and bingo -- are informal, with registration 15 or 30 minutes before the challenge begins.
"We still have our pie-eating and spaghetti-eating contests," Coleman said. "It gets pretty wild."
Aside from the business expo in Family Fun Land at Naper Settlement, another business expo will occupy parts of Jackson Avenue. Street teams will be offering giveaways and marketing their products to festival goers as part of the Last Fling's homage to Labor Day, Coleman said.
"It is a great way for local businesses, especially since it's Labor Day weekend, to get out there and market and get faces in front of everyone," she said.
The Fling also supports local nonprofit groups and clubs by paying volunteers from those groups for the time they spend helping the event run smoothly. With more than 1,000 volunteers each year, Eagan said the Jaycees donate back to Naperville-area causes fighting domestic violence or hunger, or working to improve concert halls or other public amenities.
"Labor Day is about celebrating the workforce in Naperville," Coleman said. "We love supporting Naperville-area businesses and corporations and nonprofits as much as we can."
Coleman admits parking can be a bit tricky for the Fling, but she said shuttles and nearby paid parking are available.
Visitors can park throughout downtown Naperville or pay to park at Naperville Central High School, 440 W. Aurora Ave.
Shuttles will run between free parking locations at All Saints Catholic Academy, 1155 Aurora Ave., North Central College and the Naperville Metra Station about every 30 minutes from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday, 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 1 to 6 p.m. Monday.
People with disabilities can park at Rotary Hill, 443 Aurora Ave.; the lower level of the Naperville municipal center, 400 S. Eagle St.; Centennial Beach, 500 W. Jackson Ave.; and the Naper Settlement chapel parking lot along Aurora Avenue.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.