The breezes of early summer will soon carry familiar rock riffs, and the aroma of grilling pork, through Naperville.
Ribfest, the Naperville Exchange Club’s massive yearly Fourth of July weekend party, will begin Thursday and run through Sunday in Knoch Park.
Setup wasn’t held up significantly by the storms that tore through the area Monday night and Tuesday morning.
“We came out OK,” said Ribfest Chairman Dan Deboo on Tuesday, adding that most of the tents were set up well in advance as a hedge against the possibility of stormy weather. “There was some soggy turf. Our respect for the Park District is very high, so we have to keep our vehicles off the grass for a few hours.”
Longtime patrons of the event, as well as those closely involved in its planning, will tell you there are ways to maximize your enjoyment of the food and festivities. There’s more to it than bringing along a robust appetite and a just-in-case dose of antacid.
“The big thing this year is the musical selection we have on both sides of the park,” Deboo said.
Big-marquee names such as George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Roger Hodgson of Supertramp fame, Blue Oyster Cult and the Bodeans are scheduled to perform on the Ribber Row and Navistar main stages during the four-day event.
Families with young children are being encouraged to come during the early afternoon hours of the fest, Deboo said. A special gate fee of $10 per adult, one-third off the general admission rate, will be collected from noon to 3 p.m. for the grown-ups in family groups. Kids age 11 and younger will be admitted free throughout the event, which raises funds for the prevention of child abuse and other forms of domestic violence.
Among the more popular family-oriented attractions returning this year is the petting zoo, which will be set up within the family area in the south end of the park. Also planned in the family area are a Sponge Bob bouncer, laser tag, cushioned jousting, a giant slide, bungee-focused attractions and more.
“Not everybody’s interested in main-stage entertainment,” Deboo said.
For those who are, however, there will be plenty of interesting options. Longtime fest patron Janet Derrick advised, “if you have a band that you really want to see, get to the park early and set up your spot near the appropriate stage.”
The executive director of Naperville CARES, Derrick also suggests making plans to meet friends at the event, because that makes the experience more fun.
Dolly McCarthy and her five kids always have fun at Ribfest. They’ve attended many times, developing some useful habits along the way.
“We always go to the family fun area because it’s free and very entertaining,” said McCarthy, a radio talk show host and television reporter from Naperville, in an email. “I get the kids samples of ribs and always share a blooming onion. We try never to miss Billy Croft (& The 5 Alarm) cause he is a Naperville firefighter and sings awesome country tunes! My kids love his show. Corn on the cob is a must and then dancing at Arthur Murray of course!
“Top it all off with the best fireworks!”
The annual Fourth of July fireworks display is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. Friday. Admission to the park is free after 8 p.m. that night.
Derrick was among those who said potential fest goers should plan to avoid the frustration of trying to find a parking spot downtown.
“I always recommend using remote lot parking because it is convenient,” she said in an email. “You do not have to struggle with finding a parking space and you can consume an adult beverage without being concerned about driving home.”
Deboo stressed taking advantage of the off-site parking alternatives as well.
“We have several outlying parking lots. Use the shuttle bus service,” he said. “Since it is basically a downtown event, parking is very limited.”
Daily locations for remote parking include Naperville North High School, Neuqua Valley High School, North Central College, Cowlishaw Elementary School and the Burlington lot, just south of the Metra commuter station between Fourth and Fifth Avenues on the east side of Washington Street. A sixth lot, at All Saints Catholic Academy, will be open only to fest volunteers and people with disabilities. A dozen additional outlying lots will be available to the public on the Fourth of July, with shuttles bringing visitors to the fest between 4 and 7:45 p.m. The shuttles all will return people to their cars until 10:30 p.m. each night. Information about parking, including maps and shuttle schedules, can be found at www.ribfest.net/ribfest-info/parking-and-shuttle-map.
At least one new attraction deserves a look, Deboo said. A bean bag toss championship, sponsored by Miller Lite and culminating from more than 200 local preliminaries held at area bars during June, will take place Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Among the Naperville bars that have hosted qualifying rounds are Potter’s Place Mexican Kitchen & Cantina, Rizzo’s, Crosstown Pub & Grill, Jimmy’s Grill, Quigley’s Irish Pub, Aurelio’s in Springbrook Square, and Bottoms Up Sports Bar & Grill.
Deboo acknowledged that despite the well-honed execution of Ribfest, a July tradition in the city since the late 1980s, there are some things beyond anyone’s control. With several unusually rainy weeks just past, however, he was feeling optimistic about the weekend outlook.
“Right now the forecast looks exceptionally good,” he said. “It’s going to be, I think, fine weather for this event.”
Rain or shine, Derrick suggests being mindful of the event and its purpose, and the people who make it happen.
“Ribfest is a very large fundraiser that the Exchange Club puts on to support local community groups that provide services in an effort to prevent child abuse,” she said, “and all those people wearing Ribfest shirts are volunteers.”Tags: Ribfest