The weekend-long Last Fling in Naperville culminated once again with the annual Labor Day parade Monday morning, which organizers said offered a chance to recognize the holiday as well as bring together constituents that impact those who work here in the area.
Public relations and marketing chairman for this year’s Last Fling Karen Coleman said this year’s parade, which began at 10 a.m. at Naperville North High School, would include around 80 to 90 floats and feature the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, who served as grand marshals for the parade.
“This is the 100th anniversary for the Chamber of Commerce, and because they are the ones that support the local workforce here and pave the way for things and provide a lot of guidelines, the parade committee specifically wanted them to serve this year as grand marshals,” Coleman said. “The Jaycees have also just renewed their membership with them, which is now a dual membership we are starting this year with the Young Professionals of Naperville, so this is a great way of bringing that all together.”
Coleman noted that the Chamber ran the annual parade for 45 years until the Jaycees took it over 33 years ago. Parade co-chairman Paul DeKruiff, who worked with his wife Laurie to organize the parade this year, said it was expected to draw 100,000 people.
“Naperville loves a parade, and my wife and I see ourselves as being custodians of that tradition,” he said. “We got all our entry information out on line this year which we hope will streamline the process and make it more efficient in the years to come. This is one of the longest running parades in the state, and the longest running here in DuPage County.”
DeKruiff added that the parade’s long standing tradition and attendance is a testament to how local participants are treated.
“We take the time to honor important groups and reach out,” he said. “We honor the profound contributions that have been made.”
Monday’s refreshing breezes and sunny skies provided the ideal backdrop for participants as well as spectators who began congregating early. John Dunholter of Naperville planned to run the mile race held before the parade and then watch the proceedings afterward. Dunholter said he has lived in Naperville for 30 years and never misses the parades.
“Whether it’s Memorial Day, the 4th of July, or Labor Day — if there’s a parade, I’m going to be there,” Dunholter insisted. “For me, it’s about living in Naperville. You’ve got the high schools, the politicians, your friends and neighbors. It’s a way to reconnect with the community.”
Laura Ryniec of Woodridge brought her three-year-old son Caleb out Monday morning, saying that she just moved out of Naperville but wanted to come back as her son enjoys parades and likes getting candy. Organizers said there would be bubbles passed out this year instead, which Ryniec said would be fine with Caleb.
“He likes to wave at the floats as they pass by, and he’ll enjoy the bubbles too,” she insisted. “This is the first time I’ve come to the Naperville parade and I think it draws so well because people like to come to the downtown area.”
Some who attended Monday’s event waxed philosophically about Labor Day and tried to put the holiday into a more historical perspective. Dawn Roman of Naperville represented the local World Tang S00 Do Association and was dressed in a karate robe. She said this was the second year she planned to march in the parade.
“I know a lot of people here in our group as well as along the parade route, and I like to be a part of the team,” she said. “In terms of the Labor Day parade, I think this represents who we are and how we came about. The way we work now is different. There are lot of people from years ago that did a lot for us, and we often take that for granted.”
Cynthia Kremer of Naperville planned to perform Monday as a member of the Naperville Municipal Band, which she has done for the past eight years. Kremer, too, spoke of the historical Labor Day traditions.
“I think it’s always good to remember the past because here in our ‘modern’ society, we often can get disconnected,” she said. “There were a lot of issues people like our grandparents struggled with, from wages to jobs, and we need to remember that.”