Rides are a major attraction at Naperville's annual Ribfest. | Submitted photo
♦ July 3-7
♦ Knoch Park, 724 S. West St., Naperville
♦ (630) 259-1129
Eyes to the Skies Festival
♦ July 3-6
♦ Lisle Community Park, 1825 Short St., Lisle
♦ Tickets, $0-$5
♦ (630) 541-6095
Updated: July 1, 2013 2:43PM
Summer is in full swing, and two big festivals hope to draw in the crowds in the coming days.
The Fourth of July weekend brings Naperville’s Ribfest, where in addition to ribs, you’ll find Slash, Styx, Rick Springfield and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
That same weekend, Lisle rolls out its Eyes to the Skies festival, which features hot air balloons taking flight twice a day; along with nightly fireworks, live music and lots of other activities.
It’s a good time to live in Naperville.
Naperville’s Ribfest, one of the area’s biggest festivals, returns over the Fourth of July weekend with lots of ribs and some big-name entertainment.
Headlining entertainment includes Styx, Slash, Rick Springfield and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Presented by the Exchange Club of Naperville, in cooperation with the City of Naperville and the Naperville Park District, Ribfest runs from 4 to 10 p.m. July 3 and 12 to 10 p.m. July 4 to 7 in Knoch Park in Naperville.
Exchange club volunteer and Ribfest spokeswoman Julie Lichter said that there are a few new things at the fest this year; like a new 500-person eating tent and a big screen in the eating tent that’s doubled in size from last year.
“So they will be able to enjoy their ribs and see the concerts,” she said.
She said they get several requests a year from would-be rib vendors, but organizers look for vendors with not only good reputations around festivals, but have experience serving a large quantity of food.
There are 13 rib vendors that come from such far-flung places as Ohio, Texas and Georgia (in addition to a few from Illinois). Barbecue Masters of Georgia is the lone new vendor to Ribfest.
Ribs are judged by sponsors, local celebrities and even by children. They use the Kansas City BBQ Society evaluation process to judge both ribs and sauce, she said.
Don’t like ribs? Not a problem.
“Besides the ribs, we have all kinds of things, from filet mignon sliders to the onion blossoms, and things that are good for you and not so good for you,” she said. “All that awesome stuff people like to get once a year.”
The music is going to be great this year, she said.
“We have Styx Wednesday night and a little country for the Fourth of July. Nothing’s better than a little apple pie and ribs and a little country music on the Fourth of July.”
Speaking of the Fourth of July, what’s Independence Day without some skyrockets?
“We also have the fireworks, which are a big deal,” she said. “Last year we were one of the very few suburbs that had any fireworks,” she said. “Last year, almost everybody canceled their fireworks.”
There is a musical simulcast to go with the fireworks found on 95.9 FM The River.
Some 30,000 people come to see the fireworks. Gates are opened at 7:30 p.m. for people to enter the park and stake out their spots.
Parking is recommended in the remote lots at the Burlington Lot, Naperville Central College, Naperville North High School, Neuqua Valley High School and Cowlishaw Elementary School. Accessible and volunteer parking can be found at All Saints Academy. Twelve additional remote lots can be found on the Fourth of July.
“There’s not a bad seat in the place to see the fireworks,” she said. “It’s a nice way to watch the fireworks.”
On July 4, country music is king during the day with acts like Mason River, Michael Krejci, Casey James, Love and Theft, and Billy Croft and the 5 Alarm. ARRA takes the stage at 8 p.m.
Headlining July 5 is Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. July 6 will see a couple of blues bands, a couple of rock bands, and finally ’80s rocker Rick Springfield will take the stage at 8:30 p.m.
Lynyrd Skynyrd closes out the festival with an 8:30 p.m. show July 7.
“We get some really good quality entertainment to come each year, and of course we’re very excited about who’s coming this year,” she said. “Styx has been here before and Lynyrd Skynyrd was here a long time ago, but we’ve also brought in Slash, Rick Springfield and two young up-and-coming country boys. We’re very excited about the diversity of entertainment we’ve brought to the park.”
The best way to ensure you see your favorite act is to buy online, she said.
“I’m not saying it won’t be busy and crowded, but we certainly try to accommodate those who have pre-purchased their tickets.”
Another new thing is a simpler price structure, she said. Tickets cost $15 at the gate (kids 11 and under are always free with a paying adult) or $10 during Family Fun Time hours of 12 to 3 p.m. daily except July 3. Carnival mega passes can be purchased during that time for only $10.
“You can’t take your kid anywhere for $10 and let them ride all the rides they want,” she said. “In addition to the carnival, we have a petting zoo, we have bouncies, we have a Euro bungee, we have face painting and we have a magic show. All of those things are free with admission to the park.”
That can all be found in the Naperville Bank and Trust Family Area.
“They are providing all this extra entertainment for families to enjoy at no additional charge,” she said. “And the petting zoo is double the size (of previous years). We have multiple magic shows throughout the day as well.”
All monies raised from Ribfest go towards more than 50 agencies that work to erase child abuse and domestic violence, she said.
“In over the 26 years that we have been putting on Ribfest, we’ve been able to give out about $13 million from the proceeds of this event,” she said. “It is put on by about 140 Exchange Club members, who then work with about 4,000 community volunteers to man the event. It’s a big deal.”
She has her fingers crossed for good weather — not a repeat of last year’s extreme heat — but all looks good as of right now.
“We think we’ve made it family-friendly as always,” she said. “They should be able to enjoy the event in a very clean environment. We really want the families to enjoy their time together and enjoy the Fourth of July and just really have a good time and taste some great food.”
Visit Ribfest’s website (ribfest.net), Facebook page or on Twitter (@Ribfest_NXC) for detailed maps on where to park and where to find your favorite ribber.
Eyes to the Skies
The famous hot air balloon festival includes a carnival, live music on two stages, children’s area, a craft fair and nightly fireworks show.
And of course, there’s also the balloon launch and balloon glow.
Balloons take flight at 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. daily, conditions permitting. The morning flight is free to watch; the evening flight requires the $5 admission. The glow begins around 7:30 p.m., he said.
“We get a couple thousand people out in the morning to see that,” said Eyes to the Skies spokesman Roger Leone. “We caution people — it’s dependent on the wind speed. The balloons don’t always go up, but we do have a balloon glow every night, and those are always fantastic. It’s a beautiful sight — the colors — because every balloon is different. It’s quite an impressive sight.”
The brave can take tethered rides on a first-come first-serve basis. Tethered balloon rides cost $20 for adults and $15 for children.
More than 100 booths will be at the craft show this year, which is located on the main thoroughfare of Short Street west of the bridge and east of the main festival entrance. Craft show hours are: 5 to 11 p.m. July 3; 12 to 11 p.m. July 4; 3 to 11 p.m. July 5; noon to 11 p.m. July 6.
The festival is a community event put on by the non-profit Eyes to the Skies Committee.
Music includes local favorite The Gina Glocksen Band opening the main stage July 3, with Pat Travers following. Acts on the Fourth of July include Infinity and American English. Semple and Ambrosia play on July 5, and country-rockers Poco play July 6, followed by headliners Pure Prairie League.
There will also be two food courts and a children’s area.
“We have a new outdoor feature in the children’s area,” he said. “Part of it’s a climbing wall; another part is like an obstacle course for kids.”
Look also for face painting, temporary tattoos, arts and crafts, games, inflatables, demonstrations, glitter braids (fee), exotic animal show, science show, reptile show, magic show, trick dog show and an ice cream eating contest.
The Fourth of July parade is at 11 a.m. in downtown Lisle. The fireworks show will be presented at 9:45 p.m. and is set to music.
“If you can’t find it at our festival, it’s just not out there,” he said. “One of the reasons people like it so much is that once you enter the park, you have 110 acres to do what you want. If you want to sit under a tree by the water, you can. If you want to go on the carnival rides, you can. If you want to get a beer, you’re not confined to a beer tent. You can grab your drink and walk around. It’s really fun.”