Naperville's Labor Day parade thrills viewers ages 3 to 97
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Ninety-seven-year-old Clara Stonecipher never tires of parades, even though she's seen dozens in her lifetime.
Stonecipher, of Elburn, had a front-row seat to Monday's Labor Day parade in Naperville, which kicked off the last day of the annual Last Fling festival organized by the Naperville Jaycees.
"We have a parade in Elburn every year, but this one down here has so many more people," said Stonecipher, whose son and daughter-in-law live along the parade route.
This year, she really liked the electric cars, she said. "Elburn needs some of those."
The parade ran from Naperville North High School through the historic district and downtown to Naperville Central High School.
Ray Jones, owner of Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home, set up a table on his porch with coffee, juice, homemade banana bread, pastries and even bloody Marys and bubbly for anyone who wished to help themselves. Jones said he's done so every year since he started running the business in 1977.
"It's just a good way to share with the community, especially seniors, here in Naperville," Jones said.
The loud music and marching bands were a source of great fun for 16-year-old Christopher Blackledge, who is severely autistic, said his parents, Eric and Sarah. Christopher's siblings -- Maggie, 18, and Michael, 13 -- sat next to him on the edge of the curb, while Mom and Dad lounged in folding chairs.
"He craves everything sensory," Sarah Blackledge said. "He can feel the vibration from the drums walking by. It's very exciting for him."
Aurora resident Megan Bockelman said she participated in the parade numerous times while growing up in Naperville, mostly playing the trombone for Naperville North's marching band.
This year, she took her sons Peyton, 4, and Austin, 5, who happily waved tiny U.S. flags as the parade went by.
"I feel like over the years it's gotten bigger, and there are more people," she said. "It's always entertaining, and now my little ones are old enough to enjoy it."
Debbie Wright, a teacher at Naper Elementary School, came to the parade for the first time with friends and family, including her son Connor, 5, and daughter Emily, who is 11 weeks old.
"I've been seeing a lot of my students and parents, they come up and say 'hi,'" she said. "It's nice to be doing this in the community."
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