10 tips for parking, fireworks, fun at Naperville's Ribfest

The smoke and sizzle of ribs on a grill continues to attract people by the thousands to celebrate the Fourth of July in Naperville at Ribfest.

This year stands to be no exception as hosts with the Exchange Club of Naperville put on the 31st annual event Wednesday through Saturday, July 4-7, in Knoch Park, 724 S. West St.

With so much to see, smell, eat and do - and so many people trying to experience the scene - here are 10 tips to coexist with the crowds and have a festive time.

Have a blast

The annual Fourth of July fireworks show is set to begin about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. Free admission to the south side of the park begins at 5 p.m. Organizers suggest not staying too close to the main stage for the fireworks; all the rigging might block the view. Everywhere else should offer great views.

Don't be late

Ribfest runs July 4-7, a typical four-day length. But starting on a Wednesday isn't the norm. So count Ribfest out of the hunt for summer fun next Sunday; the event closes at 10 p.m. Saturday, July 7, after a main stage performance by Steven Tyler and the Loving Mary Band.

Know the cause

Ribfest benefits roughly 50 local charities that work to end child abuse and domestic violence. Among frequent funding recipients are Almost Home Kids, ChildServ, Family Shelter Service, Hesed House, Literacy DuPage, Our Children's Homestead, Samaracare and the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago. As the logo says, "It's about kids!" The Exchange Club of Naperville's other main cause is Americanism and promoting a patriotic spirit of national pride.

Make a parking plan

Expect to walk and to shuttle when getting to Ribfest, as parking nearby is limited.

Organizers will run free shuttles from four main lots and one handicapped-accessible lot Thursday through Saturday. Buses pick up at North Central College at Brainard Street and Highland Avenue; the Burlington commuter parking lot at Washington Street and 5th Avenue; Neuqua Valley High School at 95th Street and Skylane Drive; and Naperville North High School, 899 Mill St.; with handicapped-accessible shuttles running from All Saints Academy, 1155 Aurora Ave.

On Wednesday for the fireworks, shuttle sites increase to 13. Find a list at

Wristbands = tickets

Don't have a ticket yet? Then stop by will call because that's where it will be - in the form of a wristband.

Organizers this year moved to a new system using RFID, a radio frequency identification technology that implants a small chip into a device, like a wristband, to track information.

RFID wristbands sold after June 16 will be available for pickup at the festival - after showing the original confirmation email and a photo ID.

Organizers know these wristbands are a new thing, so they've posted a hefty ticket FAQs page on the website.

Enter carefully

There are two main categories of tickets: Concert tickets of various prices for access to the entire park, and $5 tickets for only the south side.

Full-park ticket holders can enter anywhere - at the north gate on Hillside Road, the south gate on West Street or the east gate on Martin Avenue. But those with $5 tickets can't get in from Hillside; they must choose either the south or east gate.

Stake out a spot

Blankets, towels and lawn chairs are allowed, so bring 'em along. For those with tickets to main stage concerts, a large general admission area sprawls to the north, with plenty of good views. The lawn fills up quickly, so remember - the early bird gets the grass.

Pay with a scan

If going cashless sounds appealing, wristband tickets can be registered at, connected to a credit or debit card and secured with a PIN to use at each transaction in the park.

Find veterans tent

Those who have served can find an area just for them at the AllenForce Veteran Hospitality tent near the east gate. The Plainfield-based nonprofit offers the tent as a comfortable environment for veterans to get away from the rest of the crowd, which can number in the thousands, says Donna Allen-Sebok, AllenForce co-founder. In the tent, veterans and their families can decompress, step out of the sun, fuel with healthy snacks and drinks, or pick up resources about services.

Also available for free use will be three or four VETANKS, or mobility chairs with tank treads, to help veterans with disabilities get around the 14-acre park.

Help with access

Ribfest doesn't rent wheelchairs and much of the park is grassy, especially the south park where the row of ribbers takes residence. Organizers offer raised accessible viewing areas with ramps near both the main stage and the secondary stage. But these areas don't include any seats, so guests must bring their own.

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  It wouldn't be Ribfest in Naperville without a lineup of traveling rib vendors bragging about past awards. This year's event runs July 4-7 at Knoch Park. Daniel White/, JULY 2017
  The annual Naperville fireworks show concludes Ribfest's opening day and is set to blast off about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 4. Daniel White/, JULY 2012

Naperville's Ribfest

When: noon to 10 p.m. Wednesday, July 4, through Sunday, July 7

Where: Knoch Park, 724 S. West St., Naperville

Who: Hosted by the Exchange Club of Naperville; features 11 traveling rib vendors and 16 other food vendors; benefits local charities that work to end child abuse and domestic violence

Cost: $5 admission to south park including ribbers, carnival and business expo; daily concert admission varies

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