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Naper Days starts Friday
By Ann Piccininni | Daily Herald Correspondent

Sister Raphael of St. Patrick's Residence in Naperville celebrates her team's victory in last year's Bed Races competition at the Naper Days celebration in Naperville.

 

Marcelle Bright | 2007

The McNulty Irish Dancers will be among many groups to perform at this weekend's Naper Days celebration at Naper Settelement.

 

Ed Lee | 2007

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Published: 6/12/2008 12:09 AM

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Get your dancing shoes ready, along with your taste buds. Naper Days is back this weekend on the grounds of Naper Settlement near downtown Naperville.

The three-day festival at 523 S. Webster St., an homage to the city's heritage and to founder Joe Naper, may be a smaller-scale hometown summer bash than Naperville's July 4th Ribfest or the city's Labor Day Last Fling.

But it's packing a big punch this year in terms of marquee entertainment and children's activities, organizers say.

"We're very proud we're having the Gin Blossoms perform," event co-chairman Jason Altenbern said. "We're very delighted that they're able to come. This is big news for us."

The band will take the main stage at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Area teen bands will get their chance to play the main stage Sunday afternoon during the Teenage Band Showcase.

A stage dedicated to children's entertainment will feature performances by musicians Jim Gill and Amy Lowe, a disc jockey from Radio Disney, theater troupes from Kidz Kabaret and Summer Place Theatre, the Naperville Chorus, McNulty Irish Dancers, a karate demonstration and entertainment from Midwest Soarring, a Native American group.

Children also can enjoy trolley rides, arts and crafts projects, a child-sized train and cooking demonstrations aimed at kids.

"There's really an increase in the amount of children's activities," said John Buckley, the settlement's director of institutional development.

Naper Days visitors also can check out the blue-ribbon baking competition, participate in craft projects presented by the Naperville Cultural Center and other groups, and experiment with guitar and dance games such as Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution.

"We're trying to keep up with the latest rages," said Altenbern. Gourmands won't be disappointed, either. No less than 12 local food vendors will prepare samples of their cuisine for the Taste of Naperville, a culinary festival that will set up on the settlement's village green. Naper Days also will bring a dash of wackiness to Father's Day weekend. A hotly contested rivalry between veteran teams is expected to heat up the bed races down Porter Avenue.

"We've got the reigning champs, the Nuns on the Run," said Altenbern, referring to the bed race team from St. Patrick's Residence. "The teams are jockeying to see if they can take them down. That's always a family crowd-pleaser."

And then there's Barnyard Bingo, a game wherein winners are determined by who can best predict where a calf, goat, pig or chicken will leave its post-digestion mark. The event debuted as Cow Chip Bingo several years ago.

"It's more than just cows. We've brought in other barnyard animals," said Buckley.

Naper Days is a fundraiser for the Naperville Heritage Society. Last year, Buckley said, the festival netted about $125,000.

"It supports the preservation and education activities of Naper Settlement," he said.

Altenbern said between 130 and 150 volunteers help make Naper Days work. Many sign up as groups.

"It's not uncommon for me to get calls - 'Hey, my family wants to come and work together,'" he said.

Altenbern said several volunteer spots remain available, especially on Sunday, and he urges those interested to get involved.

"We'll find fun things for them to do," he said.

If you go

What: Naper Days

Where: Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St., Naperville

When: 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

Admission: $5 for adults; free for 8 and under; $10 after 5 p.m. Saturday

Info: (630) 420-6010 or naperdays.org and napersettlement.museum