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Naperville’s Ribfest and Lisle’s Eyes to the Skies offer fun for the whole family

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Naperville Ribfest, July 3-; Knoch Park, 812 S. West St., Naperville; $15 (Children 11 and under are free); (630) 259-1129, ribfest.net

Lisle Eyes to the Skies Festival, July 2-6; Lisle Community Park, 1825 Short St., Lisle; $7; Eyestotheskies.org

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Updated: June 26, 2014 5:26PM



Naperville Ribfest returns next week with bands, beer, rides and of course, the ribs.

And if you’ve got an iPhone, getting around Ribfest just got a whole lot easierthanks for a newly created Ribfest app. In addition to a map of the Ribfest grounds, the app includes tabs for rib vendors, geo-positioning, music, food and drink locations, tickets, shuttles, parking and other attractions, said Don Emery, Ribfest marketing chairman.

The app can also send push notifications with up-to-the-minute changes or weather updates, he said. There’s even a flame image so people can hold up their phones instead of lighters during the concerts. Users can build schedules based on bands they want to see or activities they want to do.

“It does all the basics — who’s playing where, what’s happening in the family area and also what are the special events we’ve got going on day to day,” Emery said. “Beyond that, not only can you look at who are the food vendors, but it gives you a little bit of their history and what their menu is.”

Also new this year is an upgrade on the second entertainment stage.

“We have the BoDeans on the opening night, and on the other stage we have BritBeat, which is one of the top Beatles cover bands. There is just different music, so you have a choice,” Emery said.

The second stage features Latin bands all day Saturday.

Some other Ribfest highlights include:

— Miller Lite has been holding bags tournaments at 200 bars in Chicagoland, and the championship rounds will be at Ribfest July 5-6 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

— Road crews from Disney, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago White Sox will be doing giveaways and contests.

— If you know how to spell “sriracha,” you’ll want to test your mettle at the Rolaids “Eat Your Words” spelling bee. Participants will be asked to spell heartburn-related words at competitions held multiple times during each event day at the Rolaids tent. Winners receive a T-shirt and bragging rights, and all participants get free samples and coupons.

— The Naperville Bank and Trust and Junior Savers Family Area is open from noon to 8 p.m. July 3- 6, with daily events such as a petting zoo, Euro bungee jumping, face painting, balloon twisters, inflatables, jousting, a mechanical bull and laser tag.

— A Family Fun Time carnival megapass costs $10 and gets you unlimited carnival rides from noon to 3 p.m. July 3-6.

“We’re trying to make it very reasonable for families to come during the day,” Emery said.

When it comes to the ribs, judging is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 5 with winners announced at 3 p.m.

“We have 12 ribbers there, and they are among the best in the country. Most of them are one-time or multiple national-champion guys from all across the country. Most of them have been with us 10 to 15 years,” Emery said. “We have very high standards. We are one of the three or four biggest rib events in the country.”

Ribfest has the honor of being named Best Festival several times by Festival magazine, he said.

“For a bunch of volunteers, it’s a very well-run event,” he said. “Last year, we gave away $600,000 to 52 charities.”

Ribfest is one of the most cost-effective fun days you can spend with your family, he said.

“It’s quite affordable as a venue and it’s a safe environment for your kids. It’s a great to have a picnic,” he said. “And for people who like music, it’s a fun place to go see bands. It’s a multi-faceted place where if you like food — whether it is ribs or one of the 30 auxiliary food vendors there — you are going to have great food to eat. And it’s a great place to hang out.”

The Independence Day fireworks will be held at 9:30 p.m. July 4 in a show choreographed to music.

To park at Ribfest, Emery said you could pay $10 and park at the corner of Aurora and West streets and you’re across the street from the event.

Otherwise, there is free remote parking at Naperville North High School, the Burlington Lot, North Central College, Cowlishaw Elementary School, Neuqua Valley High School and All-Saints Academy. Free shuttles run throughout the fest.

EYES TO THE SKIES HOT AIR BALLOON FESTIVAL

For the 32nd year, balloons will fly in Lisle.

Lisle’s Eyes to the Skies Hot Air Balloon Festival begins July 2 and runs through toJuly 6 at Lisle Community Park. The carnival days are July 2 and 6. The balloon launches begin at 5:30 a.m. July 3-5, and the fest closes up shop at 11 p.m.

“Over the years, we are continuing to expand our children’s area. There will be some smaller rides in the children’s area that toddlers can go on, as opposed to the bigger, faster rides in the main carnival,” said Roger Leone, logistics manager for the festival. “You could go through there and just spend the whole day in the children’s area with your kids.”

The children’s area will have crafts, games, face painting, soccer and martial arts demonstrations, performers from Premier Princess Parties, temporary tattoos and live music running throughout the fest. There will be booths from Legoland Discovery Center and Science Made Fun on July 3 and 5.

On July 3, the children’s stage will rock with music by The Magnifiers, Miss Michelle Bell (fire dancer and hula hooper), and magic storyteller Chris McBrien.

On July 4, kids can play Chaser laser tag, see a reptile show, and see performances by Ken Schultz the Flying Fool and also Hawaiian dancers. Representatives from Cosley Zoo and the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County will be on hand July 5, along with juggler Jason Kollom, the Rope Warrior and critters from the Big Run Wolf Ranch.

Elsewhere, look for two food courts and two stages for music and live entertainment, as well as a craft show, which brings together nearly 100 local and national crafters to sell artwork, jewelry, clothing and other arts and craft show staples.

“We’re continuing to improve the overall quality of the festival for our patrons,” Leone said.

Back again are tethered balloon rides ($20) featuring more than two dozen balloons offering patrons the chance to take a secured ride in a hot air balloon. The balloons are tied off at multiple points on the field and rise up between 50 to 100 feet in the air, hovering there for a short time so you can get the view from above. Rides are on a first-come first-serve basis and are located west of the bridge on Short Street inside the festival entrance.

“Last year, the tethered rides were a big hit,” Leone said. “You get the feeling of going up in a hot air balloon because you’re going up 60 or 70 feet, so you get the ascension and descent feeling. It’s a neat thing that we opened the field up to people who wanted to get up close to the balloons.”

The balloon launches begin around 6 a.m. and last until about 8 a.m. Several thousand bystanders are expected to show up for the launch viewing. “They’re still in their pajamas, but they come out to see the balloons go up,” Leone said, “because it only happens once a year. It’s not like you can see this every weekend.”

Live music entertainment can be found at The VanKampen Main Stage and the Riverview Stage, where the Gin Blossoms headline July 5.

“We have two or three different beverage locations, anything from beer to wine to margaritas or soft drinks,” Emery said. There will be no car show this year, but there will be a parade and fireworks three nights of the fest. The holiday parade steps off at 11 a.m. July 4 along Main Street, from Jonquil to Burlington. Fireworks begin at 9:45 p.m. July 3, 4 and 5.

Most of the proceeds from the festival go back to local non-profit organizations, Leone said.



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