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

Parade, Fling Mile get 'back to basics' in Naperville

By Marie Wilson

Naperville Last Fling organizers say they're getting back to basics with the annual Labor Day Parade and Fling Mile that showcase the workers and businesses of the city.

The parade follows the Fling Mile on a familiar route from Naperville North High School through the historic district and downtown to the Naperville Municipal Center or Naperville Central High School, and both events are expected to draw large crowds Monday morning -- the last day of the annual four-day, end-of-summer festival.

While the one-mile race begins at 9:30 a.m. and the parade at 10 a.m., spectators excited to start their day by watching both events often claim curbside seats with blankets and chairs beginning at 5 a.m. or earlier, said Karen Coleman, Last Fling spokeswoman. Those marking their territory become built-in spectators for racers running the mile.

"You get to run by everyone watching the parade," Coleman said. "(The Fling Mile) happens minutes before the parade, so all those people setting up there at 5 a.m. with their blankets and chairs -- they'll all watch you running and wave."

Online registration for the race has closed, but on-site registration is available for $20 from 8 to 9 a.m. in the Naperville North parking lot. Organizers say the course is mostly downhill, leading to speedy mile times. Runners from North Central College often cross the finish line first, running a mile in something like five minutes, Last Fling Executive Director Bill Eagan said.

It's only a mile -- not 3.1 and certainly not 26.2, so runners can enjoy the challenge of going all-out for the race's entire duration, he said.

The first three finishers in 12 age groups will receive awards, and the top three men and women to finish are in store for cash prizes, Coleman said. Plus, the overall winners are removed from age-group award eligibility, giving other runners a chance to claim the spotlight.

"People really do have an opportunity to succeed," she said.

Following the runners will be bikes, trikes, floats and walkers in the parade. It will feature roughly 100 units, many of them local businesses like Anderson's Bookshop or John Greene Realtors, said Beth DeGeeter, a Jaycees executive committee member.

"The nice thing about Labor Day is a lot of businesses are in this parade," DeGeeter said. "It's nice to showcase all the workers of Naperville."

The Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce has been named the parade's honorary grand marshal, as the organization is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

Coleman said the chamber started the Last Fling more than 40 years ago.

"They actually flagshipped the Fling as the place to be for the end of the summer," she said.

The Jaycees took over the event in 1981, Coleman said, but members are excited to get "back to basics" this year by honoring the chamber.

The parade will travel south on Mill Street from Naperville North High School, then east on Jefferson Avenue and south again on Main Street to Naperville Central High School.

"The local businesses share the fun of the parade," DeGeeter said. "That's what makes it different."

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