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Pradel is man of the hour for Last Fling’s Labor Day parade in Naperville

Mayor George Pradel leads the parade before the annual bed races at the last fling in Naperville Saturday morning.
| Michael R. Schmidt~For Sun-Times Media
Mayor George Pradel leads the parade before the annual bed races at the last fling in Naperville Saturday morning. | Michael R. Schmidt~For Sun-Times Media
Susan Frick Carlman
scarlman@stmedianetwork.com | @scarlman
June 24 11:07 a.m.

Summer has been under way officially for less than a week, but the Naperville Jaycees are already laying plans to bid farewell to the lazy, crazy, hazy season.

Organizers are busy at work on the group’s yearly Last Fling celebration, held over Labor Day weekend in downtown Naperville. Attractions include music, carnival rides, family-centered activities, food and the yearly Labor Day Parade.

The entertainment lineup is not yet quite ready to go public, Jaycees member Zak Kates said, but this year’s parade theme has been announced: A Celebration of Military Service. Leading up the procession will be military veteran, former cop and outgoing longtime Mayor A. George Pradel. He was pleased to be chosen for the distinction.

“I’ve been in a lot of Labor Day parades, and every year I’ve marched with Safety Town all these years,” said Pradel, who established the pint-sized learning community near the end of his law enforcement career. “Grand marshal is a pretty big event because you get to be up front — usually I’m in position 38 or 39 — but it’s a great honor.”

As a former Marine corporal, he is happy about the focus of this year’s final big parade as well.

“I support the military 1,000 percent, and I’m very happy that they are doing that,” Pradel said, adding that he finds it gratifying to live in a community that strongly supports the armed services.

The four-day Fling, which closes out the season of community-wide festivals in the city’s downtown, brings a parade visibility that’s functionally a farewell tour for the city’s longest-serving top elected official. Pradel’s current term expires next spring, and he does not plan to seek a sixth one.

“This is the last year that I’ll be mayor, so I appreciate the fact that they gave me grand marshal. I’ll do the best to make the people proud that put me up there,” he said. “And when I get to the end, I can cheer everybody else on who’s marching in the rest of the parade.”

Sponsorships are still available and volunteer opportunities abound for Last Fling, which typically draws 100,000 visitors or more to the downtown. Foul weather put a damper on attendance last year, but organizers estimated 175,000 came over the course of the weekend in 2012.

More information is available at www.lastfling.org.

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