Last Fling grew from bucket of beer to 4 days

Naperville, 9/2/13--The Last Fling hot dog man jumps off his ride to greet children along the parade route. Naperville held its annual Labor Day parade Monday morning at 10.  | Jon Langham/For Sun-Times Media
Naperville, 9/2/13--The Last Fling hot dog man jumps off his ride to greet children along the parade route. Naperville held its annual Labor Day parade Monday morning at 10. | Jon Langham/For Sun-Times Media

What started out as some beer and a band is now a four-day fest that attracts national acts and hundreds of thousands of people.

Naperville’s Last Fling, presented by the Jaycees, is coming up on 50 years and has grown exponentially in the last four decades.

“It started out as a bucket of beer, literally. Not a bucket of bottles, but a bucket of beer that people were scooping cups out of over at Knock Park,” said Last Fling spokeswoman Karen Coleman. “It started out as nothing … like 10 guys standing at a table with a bucket of beer and a couple of bands playing on a makeshift stage, to the Jaycees taking it over in the 1980s and moving it across the street to Rotary Hill. And it’s still become a huge animal compared to when I was young going to the Fling. It’s really exciting to think about where we’ve come from and where we are.”

The main stage will be set up at Rotary Hill. The popular band ARRA will headline Friday and O.A.R. will headline Saturday. Smashmouth will headline Sunday night with Vertical Horizon opening. 7th Heaven performs Monday. The main stage opens an hour before each band goes on.

“It’s going to be quite a party,” she said.

New this year is a social tent in the Riverwalk lot with bingo running throughout the weekend, a partnership with the Lombard Jaycees.

“We’ll have a nice big area for people to get some shade and relax, with ongoing games under there.”

Families will gravitate towards the Family Fun Land, which is located at the Naper Settlement. The hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday.

Kids will flip out when they see a “huge village” of bouncy inflatables provided by Bounce Town, she said.

There will also be pony rides, an arts and crafts area, face painting, magicians, sing-alongs with a pair of icy princesses that might be recognizable from a certain snowy movie, performances by the School of Rock and Jim Nesci’s Cold Blooded Creatures Show.

“He’s there every day. He’s amazing. The animals he brings are exciting and scary and interesting all at the same time,” she said. “There’s nothing like his show, even as an adult. It’s a lot of fun.”

Actress Dove Cameron from the popular Disney Channel show “Liv and Maddie” will do a meet and greet on Sunday.

On Saturday, singer-songwriter Shealeigh, former winner of Disney’s Next Big Thing contest, will perform and do a meet and greet.

“Family Fun Land has matured into something that is very extensive and is kind of all-inclusive,” she said. “We may not have carnival rides in there this year, but we do have Bounce Town, which is an alternative for kids to get the energy out. The other areas of the Fling are geared to an older crowd. The main stage is geared towards adults. It’s a big party. The carnival — a lot of rides are for kids that are older. It’s a busy, congested area. Family Fun Land is an area we want families to feel safe and have a really good time.”

Back again are classic events people look forward to each year; like the rib cook-off, the spaghetti and pie eating contests, skaters’ picnic, bed races, diaper derby, the Fling mile, soccer shoot-out, volleyball tournament, wine tastings sponsored by WineStyles, apple pie contest, horseshoe toss, big wheel race and water balloon dodge, Coleman said.

The free entertainment stage at the corner of Jackson and Main will see action all weekend long, she said, with bands performing throughout the festival.

“It’s non-stop. All day long, everyday. So much to see,” she said. “This year we have so many more expo booths, both on Jackson Avenue and Family Fun Land, so there are a lot more businesses coming out and getting involved.”

Tickets for the main stage Friday cost $10, $20 on Saturday and $15 on Sunday. All entertainment on Monday is free. Beverage and carnival rides will use tickets.

Shuttles will run between Last Fling and All Saints Academy, the Naperville train station and North Central College about every 30 minutes from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 1 to 6 p.m. Monday.

The traditional Labor Day Parade, saluting A Celebration of Military Service, begins at 10 a.m. Monday with outgoing mayor and veteran George Pradel serving as the Grand Marshall. The parade kicks off at Naperville North High School and finished at Naperville Central.

Last Fling is a fundraiser for the Naperville Jaycees, which in turn disperses the monies to local charities.

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Last Fling

Aug. 29-Sept. 1

Main Street and Jackson Avenue, Naperville

Tickets, Free-$20

(630) 961-4143

lastfling.org

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