50 Years of Fling

When Rick Motta opened his barbershop on Washington Street in 1961, he never imagined celebrating a simple idea that he pitched 50 years ago.

“I’m really proud that I finally got recognized for it. It’s a good time, the 50th year, I didn’t even realize it myself,” said Motta.

“We’re celebrating 50 years of Last Fling this year, so what can we do to make it special?” asked Danielle Tufano, a board member of the Naperville Jaycees.

“Rick Motta was the guy who started it all; he’s the grandfather of the Last Fling. He ran the very first Last Fling. So why don’t we go back to our roots and have our Grand Marshal be the guy that started everything? Everybody was on board immediately and we’re so excited that he’s agreed to do it!”

Soon after joining the Board of Directors of the Camber of Commerce, Rick wanted to promote his business after being inspired by a William Holden film.

Motta said, “One time, the board was talking in regard to having a celebration, a sports celebration on Labor Day. And I had been so enthralled with the movie Picnic, with Kim Novak and William Holden, which was a small town, and all the businessmen were involved having this big celebration for Labor Day.”

His enthusiasm led the board to give him full reigns and the first Fling was held in 1966 as a one-day festival on the grounds outside Centennial Beach.

Motta recalls, “I had it for seven years, and the first year was just the parade, and then they all emptied out into the grounds by Centennial Beach, where we had some of the clubs, like Jaycees and the Lions Club, had some set up games.”

From its humble beginnings of pie eating contests and a rock n’ roll talent show for locals, the Fling has grown into a four-day celebration and the largest annual fundraiser hosted by the Naperville Jaycees.

“It’s not just people from the Chicago land area, this year specifically, we were taking a look at some of the numbers though our ticketing agency, and we have people coming from New York, we have people coming from the Carolinas, we have people coming from all over the country that want to come and party with us over Labor Day weekend for the Last Fling,” said Tufano.

And while the event draws in thousands from new and far with a carnival, an all-star music lineup and special events, its philosophy still aligns with its founder in focusing on the community.

“The atmosphere of the whole weekend should just be an atmosphere of friendship,” adds Motta. “And having a good time and enjoying your town. Even now there’s many people who come from out of town, because it’s got so popular and everything. But it’s still meant for the people in town here and they’re supposed to have a good time.”

All proceeds from the Last Fling go to local charities and organizations.

Rachel Pierson Reports.

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