Labor Day Parade draws big crowds to downtown Naperville

A big crowd turned out Monday for the annual Labor Day Parade in downtown Naperville.

Threatening skies loomed throughout the early morning, bringing cooler than normal temperatures, but scores of folks dragging lawn chairs or pulling kids in wagons seemed unflustered by the imminent rain.

“If it rains, it will just make this more fun,” said Naperville resident Kelly Viton, who said she grew up in Naperville and called attending the parade each year “a tradition.”

“I always think it’s interesting to come and cheer on the floats and the troops,” she said. “I used to be in the parades myself during my high school years. This is always a fun way to end the Last Fling weekend and then, it’s off to school.”

The skies did open just as the parade began. Organizers said at least 10,000 folks were expected to line the streets of the event which ran south along Mill Street, east on Jefferson, south on Main and west onto Porter before concluding at Naperville Central High School.

Executive Committee member for Last Fling Karen Coleman, who also handles publicity, said about 90 floats appeared Monday.

“We always seem to go a bit over the number of floats allowed by the city,” Coleman said. “We have a lot of local businesses and school bands, and with all the elections at the local and state level, there are always a lot of politicians looking to been seen here in town.”

This year’s parade theme was “A Celebration of Military Service,” which Coleman said was an attempt to acknowledge “lot of milestones, and the battles fought leading up to the Labor Day event.”

“We decided to dig a little deeper this year in terms of recognizing those who have served and chose Mayor Pradel as our grand marshal, given that he is a retired Marine corporal,” Coleman said.

Pradel, dressed in a white shirt and red tie, was seen working the crowd along Mill Street before the parade began. Despite appearing in dozens of parades throughout his career, Pradel said this was the first time he was ever asked to serve as grand marshal.

“It’s really an honor and I really don’t feel worthy,” Pradel said modestly. “There are many here who fought in wars or were POWs, but I do thank people for this opportunity to honor America and serve our city. I usually walk with the kids from Safety Town and I told them I’m going to miss them today.”

Metea Valley High School band leader Glen Schneider said his group, which numbered 167 youngsters including band members and poms, were ready for the day.

“We started rehearsing our program about two weeks ago and we’re going to be playing a patriotic medley that we’ll also be performing later this year in Hawaii,” Schneider said. “I think Labor Day is important as it teaches kids to support their community and this serves as a special showcase to stop and celebrate the working people.”

Numerous organizations looking to raise awareness about their cause were also in attendance including the EVA Alliance, a group that seeks to help victims of child abuse. Adam Schweitzer, who said he just moved from Naperville to Downers Grove a week ago, spoke about Labor Day and said he felt the holiday “was a good way to mark all the strides that have been made as well as those to come.”

“When you look at all the progress that has been made with regards to labor from minimum wage to equal pay for women to child labor laws, there is a lot that has been accomplished as well as great strides that still need to be made,” Schweitzer said. “There is more to this holiday than just people having barbecues.”

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