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Naperville’s Ribfest and the Last Nights at Knoch

Ribfest rocks and rolls July 3-6

The Exchange Club of Naperville is firing up for its 32nd Ribfest and its final nights at its home of 32 years, Naperville.

The club’s leaders try to never lose focus on their mission: raise funds to eliminate child abuse and domestic violence in all forms. To that end, every year, they donate thousands of hours to produce what has become a destination concert series found in social media under hashtags #napervilleribfest #partywithapurpose  #lastnightsatknoch.  The service club distributes net proceeds from Ribfest to area agencies in DuPage, Kane, Will and Cook Counties.  This past winter, 48 agencies received funds from Ribfest 2018. “People in crisis and agencies who serve them are counting on us”, says club president John Dunham.  “We’ve donated $17.5 million dollars back to area agencies, and it’s a privilege to do so.”

The strong line-up on the Navistar Main Stage highlights the growth and popularity of the festival.  “It’s a balance to court a younger generation and keep our loyal patrons,” says 2019 co-chair Pete Paulsen.  “We have worked to diversify our music line-up for a few years, and we hit the sweet spot this year.”

Ribfest opens July 3rd with the iconic Living Colour, best known for one of their hits “Cult of Personality”. Living Colour’s first appearance at Ribfest is a must-hear for music fans, says co-chair Sandy Rocush.  “Their sound is influenced by heavy metal, funk, jazz, hip hop, punk, and alternative rock, and their lyrics are complex and compelling.”

Punk rocker Billy Idol who defined Generation X will headline on the 3rd.  An early architect of sound, style and fury of punk rock, Idol’s lip- curling sneer and fist-pumping persona vaulted him into the mainstream as one of MTV’s first megastars, making him one of the most recognizable faces in pop music, while selling out arenas everywhere he played. He has sold 40 million albums while scoring numerous platinum albums worldwide, nine top forty singles in the U.S. and 10 in the U.K. including “Dancing With Myself, “White Wedding,” “Rebel Yell,” “Mony Mony,” “Eyes Without A Face,” “Flesh For Fantasy,” and “Cradle Of Love.”

July 4th at Ribfest will be highlighted by performances influenced by Miami sound.  Rapper Flo Rida who has sold over 100 million records with #1 records “Low,” “Right Round,” and “My House” will headline the Navistar Main Stage on the 4th. The four-time Grammy nominee and 42-time platinum artist’s performance will be followed by the annual fireworks extravaganza, sponsored by Meijer.

KC and the Sunshine Band will perform earlier in the day.  “Every time we talked about the possibility of KC and The Sunshine Band, the vibe in the room got happy and everybody started moving and singing, albeit badly, a favorite KC and The Sunshine Band song,” says Paulsen.  “That’s when you know you have a winner. Their catalog of music is impressively long, and fun.”

Country Day at Ribfest is July 5th.  Naperville’s own Joe Hanson will be the first act of the day on the Navistar Main Stage.  Superstar country artist Randy Houser, who has three consecutive No. 1 hits, will support headliner Brantley Gilbert.  Rocush says, “Brantley Gilbert’s music has so much depth. It’s the best of country:  fabulous music with rich and real storytelling.  We can’t wait to hear him.”  For Paulsen, Brantley Gilbert is an ideal selection for Ribfest 2019.  “His talent is only exceeded by his philanthropy.  He’s performed USO tours and headlined a benefit for families of servicemen. He’s met countless Make a Wish kids.  Someone with a heart for others makes him a great fit for Ribfest. He’ll bring a party for our mission.”

July 6th at Ribfest will be bittersweet.  The final night at Knoch Park means big changes are ahead for the Exchange Club of Naperville.  A new location, most likely in Romeoville, Illinois, will be home in 2020.

The Ribfest Committee asked the Entertainment Committee for a big night for the 6th, specifically classic rock.  They delivered:  Bad Company will close out Ribfest and ZZ Ward, Grand Funk Railroad, and Empty Pockets will perform as supporting acts. One of the most acclaimed bands of the classic rock era, England’s Bad Company has put its indelible stamp on rock ‘n’ roll. “There’s no better way to celebrate an enduring philanthropic music event than to host Bad Company. Paulsen explains, “Ribfest will have a new home in 2020, and this final night at Knoch Park, we want to rock out and remember all the good times.”

Concert tickets as low are $20 are on sale now through www.ribfest.net.  The North Park ticket includes access to the Navistar Main Stage concert venue plus the South Park. The club recommends using the free remote parking and shuttle as close-in parking is limited.  For those interested in ribs or family fun only, the South Park ticket ($5 online and $10 at the gate) offers rib and other food vendors, local entertainment on the South Stage, a Naperville Bank & Trust free family, and carnival.  For more information on Ribfest, visit their website and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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