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Article posted: 8/30/2013 6:00 AM

Naperville picnic unites skaters, cops

By Marie Wilson

Skateboarders, police, pies and prizes are coming together this weekend for the 10th annual Last Fling Skaters' Picnic in Naperville sponsored by KidsMatter.

The skate-fest usually draws about 200 kids and teenage participants to the Skate Park at Centennial Beach, where they learn tricks from pros, practice their own moves and compete in pie-eating and doughnut-eating contests against police officers.

The event is marking a decade as part of the Jaycees' Last Fling, an annual festival over Labor Day weekend that this year runs Friday, Aug. 30, through Monday, Sept. 2.

Despite the element of friendly food competitions, Bridget Hatch, marketing and events manager for the nonprofit KidsMatter, said the Skaters' Picnic aims to help police and skateboarders build positive relationships.

"You're more friendly toward someone you're having a doughnut-eating contest with or someone you have a fun interaction with going forward," Hatch said.

Naperville officers from both the city and park district forces come onto skaters' turf for the free event from 11 to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, at the skate park, 500 W. Jackson Ave.

The first 100 skaters get a free lunch from Belgio's Catering, a free T-shirt and one free ticket for a raffle with prizes, including a new skateboard "deck" from Character Skateboards of Chicago. The company also is bringing skateboarding pros to demonstrate new moves and work with kids.

"All they have to do is come, bring their skateboard and have a good time," Hatch said about the skaters from Naperville, Bolingbrook and Plainfield who attend the event year after year. "It's their one opportunity to shine just for liking skateboarding."

Scheduled to coincide with the Jaycees' Last Fling, the Skaters Picnic got its start when Naperville Mayor George Pradel called KidsMatter Executive Director IdaLynn Wenhold looking for a way to strengthen relationships between skateboarders and police, she said.

Now the event also has strong partnerships with the Naperville Park District and the Jaycees, who support the event as part of their annual end-of-summer festival.

"It's awesome that (the Skaters' Picnic) has happened to become a part of the Last Fling," Wenhold said.

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