Celebrate close of summer at Last Fling
Festivalgoers and organizers have been "feeling the community spirit" at the Last Fling in Naperville for generations.
The end-of-summer festival is now in its 50th year.
When the Fling opens at 5 p.m. Friday in downtown Naperville along Jackson Avenue, at Rotary Hill and at the Naper Settlement, a half-century of memories will flood back for Rick Motta, the Fling's creator who ran the festival for its first seven years.
"It was a wonderful time," Motta said about launching the event that now draws thousands each year. "Really, what I had in mind was from the movie 'Picnic.' It's about a small town that's having a big Labor Day celebration and all the businessmen are involved in it. It's really the businessmen doing something for the people in appreciation."
Danielle Tufano, public relations and marketing chairwoman for the festival, said Fling organizers will honor Motta, an 84-year-old barber, by making him this year's grand marshal for the Labor Day parade.
"That's a way to look back and celebrate all the years that the Last Fling has been a big, important part of the Naperville community," Tufano said.
Longtime residents say the festival has grown from what Motta created when he was involved with the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce -- a close-knit gathering with a parade, a cookout and a few fun contests -- into what attendees will find this weekend -- a four-day bonanza of music, rides, races, contests and food with a regional crowd.
"It's truly mind-boggling to see how this event has evolved over the past 50 years," said John Trojanowski, Last Fling executive director.
Hosted by the Naperville Jaycees since 1981, the event offers free admission to everything except main stage musical acts Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and it aims to raise money for dozens of charities supported by the club.
"We really try and spread the revenue that we generate out to create the most bang for our buck," Trojanowski said.
Highlights of this year's fest include shows by Daughtry and Chevelle, new attractions in the family fun area such as an interactive Army Fun Zone, a day of free country entertainment Sunday at the stage on Jackson Avenue and a new 5K race Monday morning after the Fling Mile.
"We're really excited to keep this event fresh and keep people coming back each and every year," Trojanowski said. "We're always trying to spice it up a little bit here and there and keep people enticed."
Staples of the Fling will be back for another year, including the dunk tank, carnival, business expo, baby races and Labor Day parade.
The event will run from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday before concluding from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday.
Even before the grounds open, 95.9-FM The River will host a live radio broadcast to commemorate the 50th Fling. From 5:30 to 10 a.m., Tufano and her co-host on The River's morning show, Scott Mackay, will be on air at Quigley's Irish Pub, 43 E. Jefferson Ave.
Parking is available throughout downtown Naperville or in lots where there will be shuttles to carry visitors to the fest: the Naperville Metra station, North Central College and All Saints Catholic Academy.
If you goWhat: Last Fling festival
When: 5 to 11 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday
Where: Concerts at Rotary Hill, 443 Aurora Ave.; family fun area at Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St.; carnival and business expo along Jackson Avenue
Who: Hosted by Naperville Jaycees
Cost: Free festival admission; concert tickets from $10; carnival rides and food for sale