Rick Motta —Someone You Should Know
For more than half a century, Naperville residents have enjoyed the parades, rides, games, music and one last fling to mark the unofficial end of summer thanks to the brainchild of Naperville resident and business owner Rick Motta. What started out as a small parade and picnic, in what was then the small farming community of Naperville in 1966, has now grown into one of the biggest must-see events of the summer in the western suburbs. This year, Naperville’s Last Fling is expected to attract thousands of visitors again as it celebrates its 51st anniversary. “It was meant as a way to give something back to the people of Naperville,” said Rick Motta.
Motta managed the Last Fling for the first seven years from 1966 to 1972. The idea was inspired by the 1955 movie “Picnic” with Kim Novak. Motta says he brought the idea of a free community picnic to the Naperville Chamber of Commerce as a way for the business community to thank its customers. “I said ‘let’s have a big parade and picnic after in the parking lot of Centennial Beach’ and they went for it,” said Motta. “Everyone said it was the best parade. We had awards for the best floats and best marching bands but no politicians.”
The Early Years
The following year, the celebration expanded to three days over the Labor Day weekend. “The next year we brought in rides and charged 25 cents per ride. We also added square dancing competitions, battle of the bands and a talent show. I set up the stage in the pool area of Centennial Beach,” said Motta.
In the ‘80s, as the event became larger and so to did the need for additional volunteers, the Naperville Jaycees took over managing the event. In 2015, Motta was named as the grand marshal of the Last Fling parade, as an honor for his contributions over the years.
Last Fling now includes hundreds of volunteers, sponsors, food vendors, two entertainment stages, Family Fun Land, a carnival, 5K race and Last Fling Mile and of course, the Labor Day parade. Motta never imagined the Last Fling would become as large as it has today.
“It took a lot of work through the years and we had good, hard-working people to make it grow,” said Motta. “I never imagined it would be that big—I never imaged Naperville would be this big. When I moved here, there was nothing south of 75th Street.”
(Naperville’s Last Fling) was meant as a way to give something back to the people of Naperville.
Local Business Community
Motta, who is one of Naperville’s longest-serving barbers and the owner of the Rick Motta Barbershop on 25 S. Washington in Naperville, says Naperville’s strong sense of community is the driving force behind the city’s growing popularity and his love for the community. “I moved from Chicago and began decorating the town with my Barbershop. I fell in love with Naperville. There were 7,000 residents at the time when I moved here. It was a small farm town, but had a great sense of community,” said Motta who still has the original antique wood-burning stove from his first barbershop on display in his current location.
At 85 years young, Motta shows no signs of slowing down. He is just as enthusiastic today about Naperville, the Last Fling and his business as he was 50 years ago. “I love what I do. Working and meeting people is keeping me alive,” said Motta, who admits that business has slowed since the great recession.
Naperville’s Last Fling is scheduled to run from Friday, September 2 through Monday, September 5, with the traditional Labor Day Parade on Monday at 10 a.m. For more information visit, www.lastfling.org.