Summer will close out locally in the coming few days with Last Fling, the Naperville Jaycees’ annual fundraising ode to the warm season that fills much of the downtown every Labor Day weekend.
Conceived as a community-wide picnic by downtown barber Rick Motta when he founded the event 49 years ago, the four-day fest will bring blockbuster bands ARRA, O.A.R. and Smashmouth to the Belgio’s Catering Main Stage. While the festival’s signature attractions include such old-fashioned favorites as bed races, senior bingo, carnival rides, a diaper derby, petting zoo, an apple pie baking contest and a Labor Day parade, the plans also include events with more modern roots, among them a picnic for skaters and skateboarders, the Fling Mile race and sand volleyball.
A portion of the weekend also goes to the dogs. This year, some four-legged heavy hitters in the world of disc catching will be turning up at the Riverwalk’s Grand Pavilion, home base this weekend for national and worldwide championships in their sport.
Forty dog-disc thrower teams will vie on Friday afternoon in a last-chance qualifier for four slots in the 40th annual Ashley Whippet World Championships, scheduled to kick off at 9:30 a.m. Saturday with about 32 teams taking part in the final round. Sunday will bring the UFO North American Cup Championships, starting at the same time.
“We’ve had them here once, maybe twice before,” said Tom Wehrli, who organizes the well-attended Ashley Whippet competition every year, of the UFO event.
Among those expected to attend is Alex Stein, who several decades ago tossed discs for his three-time Frisbee Dog World Championship title holder, Ashley Whippet. Long before the worldwide event was renamed in his honor, Ashley gained fame in 1974, when he and Stein snuck onto the ball field at Dodger Stadium for an impromptu exhibition of their skills, practiced at speeds up to 35 mph. The show brought the game to a halt for a few minutes, until Stein was escorted off the field and then arrested.
Some modern-day stars in the field will compete, including three-time reigning world champion team Bling Bling and Chuck Middleton, set to defend their UFO title. A 9-year-old handler from Amsterdam is signed up to take part with her Australian shepherd, Wehrli said, and other teams from Europe and Asia may turn out as well. Disc-Connected K-9’s alpha male Lawrence Frederick is coming from Jacksonville, Fla., in his touring bus, bringing along a crew and a pack of leaping hounds that will show their stuff.
Bleachers will be set up near the Pavilion for the typically large crowd turnout.
“It’s going to be a great weekend,” said Wehrli, who has four disc dogs of his own, but none of them will compete. “We’ll be getting some great sponsors, like usual.”
In addition to major sponsor Gerald Nissan, the event’s expenses are being funded with help from Dog Patch Pet & Feed, Naper Auto, My Chef Catering, Wheatland Animal Hospital, Plaques Plus, Wehrli Vacuum, Wehrli Excavating, Wehrli Home Decorating and Wehrli Woodworks.Tags: Last Fling, pets, Riverwalk
What: Naperville Jaycees’ Last Fling
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: Downtown Naperville — Jackson Avenue, the Riverwalk, Rotary Hill, Naper Settlement.
Why: To usher out summer and raise funds for local nonprofit organizations.
How: Admission is free, except for concerts on the Main Stage on Rotary Hill.
What else: Visitors are urged to use the free shuttles that will run between the Fling area and three remote parking lots. Information about road closures, parking and other details can be found at www.lastfling.org and www.naperville.il.us/lastfling.aspx