The Last Fling returns to Naperville


Grace Aigner and Rachael Woods

As summer nears its end, the streets of Naperville bustle with excitement for the long awaited tradition, The Last Fling. For four nights and three days over Labor Day weekend, families, teens and adults flock downtown for carnival rides, street food, games and live music. This year’s festival, however, was more anticipated than in years past. 

First hosted in 1966, the Last Fling is a family-friendly festival put on by the Naperville Jaycees with the help of many community volunteers. This year, the event took place from Friday Sept. 3 to Monday Sept. 6, with a Labor Day parade on Monday morning. The Last Fling includes food vendors, live music performances, fundraising opportunities and an ever-popular carnival. 

After the cancellation of the 2020 Last Fling due to COVID-19, the Naperville community was thrilled to get back to a dearly missed tradition. When asked if they missed the nixed festival last year, visitors responded overwhelmingly, “yes.”

“It was a way to bring us together sharing food, fun, laughter, and more,” Lauren Wincup, a frequent Last Fling visitor, said.

Especially for those who have been enjoying the tradition for a long time, the one year hiatus caused a noticeable loss. 

“We definitely missed it last year,” Megan Berning, a Last Fling attendee since 1987, said.

Although the return of the Last Fling is another step towards normalcy, COVID-19 precautions were not absent from the festivities. As the organizers, The Naperville Jaycees cleaned frequently touched surfaces, provided hand sanitizer and altered the layout of the event. Volunteer Carrie Meikle explained some new precautions:

“[The Naperville Jaycees] also did the footprint of the Last Fling differently to try and cut down on the big, massive crowds, so that people would feel safer,” Meikle said.

The biggest crowd concerns were at the concert locations. Historically, performances have been held on Rotary Hill. This locale, however, resulted in lots of people packed close together. This year, the stage was moved to the corner of Main Street and Jackson Avenue with less space for a crowd to gather.

As for visitors, a majority of people were comfortable without masks because the event was held entirely outside. Courtney and Jeff Zimmermann, first time Last Fling attendees and parents of a one-year-old, explained why they felt safe without a mask.

“[It’s] outside, people are spaced out enough. If it was more crowded we’d probably put [our masks] on,” Jeff Zimmermann stated. 

Live music took center stage during the event. Sula Erickson, married to a member of “One More Time,” a band that performed at the event, said the band was happy to get back to performing.

“[It’s] good for the soul, you know what I mean? Just get out and play music,” Erickson said.

Even though the Last Fling looked slightly different this year, the organizers’ spirits were unaffected. Carrie Meikle noted the grateful attitude of those supervising.

“Everybody who has supervised the volunteers has been super appreciative and just really welcoming, friendly and thankful,” Meikle said.

Despite lingering COVID-19 concerns and precautions, the Naperville community was glad to return to a favorite tradition. Mae Adams, a Naperville North sophomore and a member of the Naperville North dance team, performed in the Labor Day parade Monday morning and shared how excited the team was to be a part of the tradition.

“It’s such a special Naperville tradition. It’s sad that not a lot of people got to experience similar things last year and it felt really distant… so everyone was really excited for the experience,” Adams said.