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Naperville Labor Day parade crowd celebrates the holiday and unofficially kisses summer goodbye – Chicago Tribune

As fire engine sirens blared and parade walkers threw out handfuls of candy, thousands of Naperville residents capped the unofficial end of summer Sunday with an enthusiastic downtown Labor Day parade.

“It’s exactly what we needed almost post-COVID,” said Chad Pedigo, president of Naperville Jaycees, who organized the parade as well as the Last Fling, bringing tens of thousands of people to Naperville over the weekend.

“Even though we changed the scope of the event to be a downtown block party, the heart of it has grown with friends and neighbors coming out and really enjoying themselves. And it’s still accomplishing the good and the giving back that we set out to accomplish,” Pedigo said.

The parade had more than a hundred entrants from high school marching bands to tractor drivers, youth gymnasts to hip-hop dancers. On an overcast yet comfortably warm early September day, firefighters near the head of the parade delighted the kids in the crowd by stopping to spray them with water from their truck’s hose.

Parade grand marshals this year were Naperville flag football players Ryan Gronowski, 24, Lou Pisani, 24, and Peter Silagi, 32. All three were members of the gold medal-winning team at the recent Special Olympics USA Games.

“I was so excited,” Gronowski said of being a grand marshal. “It was a nice day outside. All the people and music ― it was pretty good.”

The trio said they went into the June games in Orlando with the Special Olympics’ motto in mind: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

“We won a gold medal, and it made me proud,” Gronowski said. “Win or lose, we tried our best and were brave.”

Organizers said they were honored to have the men as their grand marshals, and appreciated that they brought other Special Olympians to the parade as well.

They also wanted to thank the more than 1,000 volunteers that made the holiday weekend’s festivities a success.

“The community is what makes this event special,” said Beth DeGeeter, co-director of the Last Fling. “Seeing everybody out this weekend, it’s made my heart large and very excited, and hopefully we’ll come back year after year and continue this tradition.”

Giles Bruce is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

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