Category Archives: Naperville Community Leader Series

10 Reasons Why I Love Naperville Magazine and You Should Too!

Naperville Magazine_edited-1by Stuart Meyer

I grew up surrounded by the publishing business.  After my father’s early career years in radio, television and working for the local daily newspaper, he began publishing his own monthly shopper newspaper in Elizabethtown, KY which circulated continuously for over 30 years.

My favorite memories were riding around with him to visit his advertisers as they were all one big extended family to us.  As I got older and after spending enough time hanging out in his design/layout office, he taught me ad design layout… the old-fashioned way as he was somewhat of a “purist”.  No computers or desktop publishing… it was all border tape, polaroids, blue lines, matte books of artwork, hot wax, plenty of typeset and manual Royal typewriters.

Given my childhood in the family publishing business, I’ve alwaysNaperville Magazine_June 2013 Cover admired the work of Naperville magazine publisher Leah Rippe in her vision and determination over the years to build and grow a true Naperville-focused monthly magazine.  The magazine’s mantra and slogan is “Your City. Your Magazine” and they are true to their word.

Here’s my top 10 reasons why I love Naperville magazine:

10)  DESIGN worthy of a higher-end lifestyle magazine publication.

9)  Lots of LOCAL CONTRIBUTORS sharing both their talents and Naperville perspectives.

8)  Seemingly endless coverage of the LOCAL CHARITABLE EVENTS AND SOCIAL SCENE IN THE NAPERSCENE SECTION.  Our favorite challenge is to search for that rare event where our friend Ray Kinney isn’t pictured.

7)  Lots and lots of GREAT PHOTOGRAPHY.


5) Publishing depends on advertising support and I admire the ways in which the magazine blends in BUSINESS STORYTELLING as part of the content.

4) Great FEATURE STORIES and commitment to COMMUNITY NEWS.

3) The magazine is truly presented from a true NAPERVILLE PERSPECTIVE.

2) From restaurant reviews, chef profiles to the Dining Out section, there’s always a strong FOOD FOCUS.

1) Come on… it’s ALL ABOUT NAPERVILLE!  Thanks Leah!

To subscribe to Naperville magazine and event eNewsletter, CLICK HERE


Recent Visit to Naper Settlement a Reminder that Time Travel is Possible

by Stuart Meyer

Naper Settlement_Schoolhouse_FINAL

The interior of the Copenhagen Schoolhouse at Naper Settlement as it appeared in 1870. While it’s a historically accurate replica, many of the materials used are from the original schoolhouse.

Being both a filmmaker and owner of a Naperville-based production company about to move its operation into Downtown Naperville, every time I visit the grounds of Naper Settlement I continue to construct the storyline for a film which uses the Settlement as the setting.  From a production standpoint, the interiors of each building are nearly film-ready in terms of production design down to the fine details.  With just a bit of Hollywood-style magic, we could transform exteriors to a place which takes us far from the hustle and bustle of Downtown Naperville.  One day I predict we will shoot that film.

For now, anyone who doesn’t believe time travel is possible certainly hasn’t visited Naper Settlement.  Sure, you may have driven by and seen the buildings, but if you haven’t stepped foot into these magical historically-preserved spaces you are truly missing out.  The community, Naperville Heritage Society, the Museum Board and team over at the Settlement continues to do a terrific job preserving these treasures of our past bringing history to life year-round.

To the many of you who have embraced this community treasure over the years, there are many additional ways you can ensure this Naperville Legacy lives long into the future, such as (click on links):

Make a Donation for Become a Sponsor

Become a Member

Other ways to support Naper Settlement


BEHIND RIBFEST – Feature-Length Documentary Film Provides All-Access Behind-the-Scenes Look at Naperville Ribfest

by Stuart Meyer

For the past 26 years, the Naperville Exchange Club has produced Naperville Ribfest as a charitable event which donates 100% of net proceeds toward the prevention of child abuse and domestic violence.  Prepare to be entertained and inspired as you journey behind-the-scenes of the Naperville Ribfest for an exclusive inside look at every aspect of this volunteer-run charitable BBQ and music festival.  Behind Ribfest  is a feature-length documentary film produced by my production company, Social Frequency Media Communications, and after making some rounds at film festivals we’ve decided to release the film online in two parts.  We hope you’ll watch and share this film with others.  Watch the film below or simply click here.

“Behind Ribfest” Documentary Film to Debut at the Naperville Independent Film Festival on September 18th

Over a year ago, I began production on a documentary film about Ribfest.  Many of us know the festival from the perspective of attendee, but few get the chance to go behind-the-scenes of everything that goes into making this volunteer-run festival a success in raising millions of dollars toward the elimination of child abuse and domestic violence.  This film follows along with the Naperville Exchange Club, the rib teams, the musical entertainment acts, the volunteers and the faces behind the festivals ultimate mission.  I’m pleased to report the film is finished and will debut on September 18th at the Naperville Independent Film Festival at 7 PM at the Ogden 6 Classic Cinemas.  As a little teaser, take a look at the promo below:

Glennette Tilley Turner Brings the Illinois Underground Railroad to Life at 2010 African American Heritage Festival in Naperville

“Heritage” is a word that is not only at the fabric and meaning of our existence, but one which carries with it tales of tradition and tragedy which are meant to never be forgotten as future generations inherit this Earth, this country and our community.

The inaugural 2010 African American Heritage Festival, which took place at the NCC Wentz Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center last weekend, was certainly an occasion worthy of joyful celebration, insightful reflection and meaningful connections.  Based upon my own experience in attending the festivities on Saturday and meeting the amazing people behind this event, my resolve to bring the larger community into the experience of this Festival was solidified.

To those who could not attend, below is a small piece of what you missed… an audio and still photo composite of author Glennette Tilley Turner talking about her own life and the Freedom Seeker’s travels through the Naperville portion of the Illinois Underground Railroad.  The video also includes an audio interview with the Festival’s Originator, Osie B. Davenport, on the story behind the Festival.

Turner’s warm soul and lifelong inquisitive curiosity has resulted in a number of books for all ages, including:  “An Apple for Harriet Tubman” (childrens book), “The Underground Railroad in Illinois”, “Running for Our Lives”, “Journeys in Courage – On the Underground Railroad”.

In addition, she is about to release a new book, entitled “Fort Mose” about the small island off the coast of St. Augustine, FL which was founded nearly a century before the Emancipation Proclamation and became the earliest settlement of emancipated slaves in our country.

I encourage you to buy these books, share these important stories with your family and make a plan to retrace the steps of the Underground Railroad in Naperville and our surrounding areas.  You can find out more about Glennette Tilley Turner and order her books at:

If you missed the African American Heritage Festival this year, I highly recommend that you make plans to attend next year as this is both an important event and opportunity for our community to come together, connect with each other and to explore and celebrate the unique richness of the lives, culture and history that surrounds us.

In the end, the contribution of grant money to support these enriching events is lost without the contribution of time, attention and participation by our community.  Even more, there is an amazing personal and societal reward to be gained when we travel outside of ourselves to build a deeper connection with what is the truest and most meaningful wealth within our community… our relationships with each other.   SM

Wishing Naperville Mayor George Pradel a Speedy Recovery

A photo of Naperville Mayor George Pradel from Summer 2009 during my youngest son's graduation from Safety Town

For those who may not know, our always charismatically animated Commander-in-Chief, Mayor George Pradel, suffered a mild heart attack on Wednesday based on reports from the Naperville Sun.

Based on what has been published, it appears that he is doing well.  Kudos to the cardiac team at Edward Hospital for their top notch care and expertise.  We are very fortunate to live in a community with such a top quality hospital and health care network.

To the Mayor and Pradel family, my warmest wishes and thoughts as the recovery process continues.

Pint-Size City Comes Alive During My Son’s Week at Safety Town Camp in Naperville

Safety Town 2We’ve driven past the peculiar miniature city of colorful buildings and tiny road signs many times before.  We’ve even been trick-o-treating there, but my youngest son would never have remembered as his “street legal” vehicle that Halloween was a stroller.

But 2009 was his big year to take to the scaled down streets in his environmentally green vehicle to learn all about being street safe.  That’s right, last week my little guy spent his days with volunteers from the Naperville Junior Woman’s Club and local student volunteers to learn road safety and, of course, have a little imaginary fun along the way.

For those of you who haven’t driven past the city limits of Safety Town on Aurora Ave. over by the Naperville Police Department, this particular town is a scaled down depiction of a variety of Naperville streets, including a Main Street, a familiar cul-de-sac and even a covered wooden bridge leading to the rail station.  A myriad of street signs, road signs and signals adjoin the sidewalks through safety town which serve as learning aids for the kids. 

Safety Town_PradelAfter a busy week, I was fortunate enough to have recovered enough from my London jet lag to attend the Safety Town graduation ceremony on Friday.  When I arrived, the campers were assembling in the building as Mayor Pradel’s animated energy circulated around the seated crowd with him offering up enthusiastic high fives to the older kids in attendance who had attended Safety Town in previous years.   Yes, Officer Friendly himself was one of the earliest proponents of the Safety Town Facility.

It’s too late this summer, but if you children are headed in Kindergarten in Fall 2010, be sure to sign them up for the Naperville Junior Woman’s Club Safety Town Camp next summer. 

Now if only I can find away to keep my little guy to stay pint-sized for awhile and not grow so fast.  We must all embrace these magical days.  SM

Honor the Past – Imagine the Future

Though it’s hard to believe the formal millenium celebration of 2000 is now seven years behind us, the theme of the former White House Millenium Communities Program, “Honor the Past – Imagine the Future”, will forever ring within our hearts here in Naperville.

My youngest son and I recently participated in the full Millenium Carillon tour experience and while I plan to write a full account of our visit very soon (tune back in soon to learn whether or not a three year-old can climb that many steps) this theme, which is incorporated into the visitor center exhibit, suddenly came to life. 

In my mind, few words could better describe the true spirit of Naperville.  Our community’s relenteless preservation of it’s history is rivaled only by a strong devotion toward imagining an even greater future.  Preservation, imagination and visionary progress can only be achieved through the minds and hearts of passionate residents, leaders and volunteers alike. 

The differentiating factor in Naperville is the cooperative and visionary spirit of it’s people.  Any hand can paint a picture but only the heart can make it a masterpiece.

As we imagine our future, it’s important that we continue to work together in shared interest to ensure the preservation of our masterpiece for present and future generations.

The Future Dimensions of Community Participation and Volunteerism

While skeptics might argue that many parts of our world are becoming increasingly disconnected and irrelevant as the societal dust continues to settle here in the information-saturated internet age, I believe the ongoing evolution of technology will yield expanded interactive opportunities to not only communicate but also to engage in collaborative participation and volunteer our time in ways and at levels which seemed previously inconceivable.

What is social media you ask?  social media, also sometimes referred to as web version 2.0, is the ever-expanding host of internet-based technologies designed to foster two-way interactive online communication between those with uniquely shared interests.  MySpace, Facebook, Second Life, blogs, wikis, text messaging, Linked In, eVite and Meetup are all examples of popular social media technologies.

Using the World of Naperville as an example, this blog has provided not only a source of information but a point of connection between those with either a passion or mere curiosity about our community.  Interaction has taken the form of comments, email exchanges and many face-to-face meetings which have resulted from the online dialogue.  Given the fact I work outside of our community yet have a strong passion for Naperville and orientation toward community activism, this social media tool has not only enabled me to participate in and facilitate dialogue regarding community issues but has also allowed me to make connections with others ranging from local leaders to individuals living on the other side of the country looking to move to the area.

By no means do I consider myself to be what many would call a “digital native”.  I grew up just like many of you in a world of electric typewriters rather than PCs (my dad had two manual Royal typewriters).   I consider myself to be a digitial immigrant or someone who has proactively embraced technology in seeing the evolving mainstream possibilities which will continue to advance our society.   

While many may be quick to dismiss these technologies as a pastime for younger generations, introverts and frightening predators, the new frontier of social media itself is in its infancy and growing up rapidly each and every day.  As a society, we have yet to realize the full potential and application of social media in our traditional mainstream lives.  Largely, I believe social media technology is not as “otherworldly” as it may seem, but rather a new and innovative spin on traditional communication norms and practices.

While the corporate world has attempted to lead the charge in “owning” and leveraging new interactive technologies largely for marketing purposes, the true value of the social media world belongs to any critical mass of people with uniquely shared interests looking to not only engage in meangingful interactive discussion but also to participate in the advancement of thought and activity in the realm of their shared area of interest.  In essence, social media is all about volunteer social participation. 

To realize the true potential of the social internet medium in terms of community participation requires shifting the current paradigm of participation in the minds of community leaders and residents alike.  Further, it may provide some comforting reassurance to understand that social media, by design, could be considered “bridge” technology for it’s potential to transition the online world into traditional face-to-face interaction and participation.  Social media will also continue to remove the traditional cost and barriers of participation in opening up opporutnities to a larger pool of those looking to engage, interact and participate in either the online realm or in person.

Why is participation so important?  The success of Naperville is rooted in the success of its people.  Participation represents a personal investment which instills a sense of belonging/engagement which can ultimately lead to a high degree of loyalty and activism.  As you will recall from previous postings along this same subject line here at the World of Naperville, its the people and the inclusive nature of participation which creates a powerful and memorable experience and comprises the heart and soul of any community.

As next generation versions of social media and internet technology continue to evolve and utilization expands, I encourage all for-profit and not-for-profit organizations within Naperville or any community of like-minded people to see the potential this communication medium represents on a local, regional, national and even global scale.

More to come… SM



Volunteerism is the Root of Passion and Success for Naperville Community and Business Leader Ray Kinney

ray-kinney.jpg Ray Kinney

If you aspire to become more involved in Naperville or simply keep up with community developments, chances are the name Ray Kinney will surface.  Whether reading about him in the Naperville Sun or having a conversation with fellow Napervillians who have said “you should really talk to Ray Kinney”, it became clear very early on that Ray is a well-rounded and respected community leader within Naperville. 

After the interesting turn of events I recently chronicled while on vacation in South Haven regarding my chance meeting with his sister, Cindy, from Kalamazoo ( World of Naperville on Vacation in South Haven, Michigan) , Ray and I touched base and connected for a cup of coffee downtown at Einstein Bagels last week to talk about our favorite topic, Naperville.  As a result of that conversation and hearing more about his long-term passion and committment to Naperville, I talked Ray into being the first to be profiled for the World of Naperville’s Community Leader Series. 

For those who may not know,  Ray Kinney is a long time resident of Naperville and President/owner of Minuteman Press and Maclyn Group.  He has been very active as both a member and leader within the Naperville Chamber of Commerce since 1984 and currently sits on a number of boards including the North Central College Board of Trustees, the Naperville Development Partnership and the Naperville Heritage Society.  Throughout the years, Ray has received many awards for his strong commitment to Naperville, including Small Business of the Year, Business Man of the Year, Kids Best Friend Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Naperville Jaycees (source:  Naperville Chamber of Commerce website).

Within minutes of meeting Ray, it’s easy to see his strong passion for Naperville, volunteerism and community involvement shine through.  Below is some Q&A stemming from our conversation.  

SM:  What was the original motivation behind your involvement in our community and what continues to motivate you today?

Ray Kinney:  I was first exposed to the benefits of community service as a student at Naperville Central High School where one of the requirements of a class was to do some volunteer work. I chose to work with clients from Little Friends at the Naperville YMCA, helping to teach them to swim. During that semester, I learned that you can find great satisfaction in giving of your time and talents. After High School and a very short stint at college, I found myself working at the Naperville SUN and living near the train tracks.  At the time, the Naperville Chamber was housed in the same building as the SUN in downtown and I went to a few Chamber meetings to meet some people and see what it was all about. Through those encounters, I found an opportunity to get involved with people that cared about Naperville and I became interested in getting more involved. The Exchange Club was just being formed and planning the first Ribfest and I jumped at the chance to help. I met some wonderful people and formed some great contacts and soon volunteering for me became a passion. The Naperville Jaycees provided me with ample opportunities to push myself, learn new things and develop leadership skills – the type of on the job training that is hard to replicate in a classroom. The friendships I formed in my early 20’s while volunteering still guide me today, and many of the people that I met in those early days are my friends, clients and people I know have the interest of others at heart. While it is often difficult to step aside and let new people have an opportunity to be more involved, I have been in awe of what people can do if given the opportunity. I hope my children learn that it is the obligation of everyone to help those around them – both near and far and to give of themselves and their talents to improve the community and the lives of others.

SM:  What do you think/hope Naperville will look like in 2027?

Ray Kinney:  My crystal ball is on the fritz, but I do hope that in 2027, Naperville is still considered a great place to live, work and raise a family. The community is much the same as it was in 1979, yet it is quite different – the people are what make Naperville a great place and I would hope that we can say the same thing in the future. Downtown will be larger, that is a given, with the Water Street Development and the expansion to the north will guarantee that while the downtown may look different, my hope is that it doesn’t feel different. I would hope we can find a way to keep the unique blend of independent stores along with the national retailers and the restaurants a success. With North Central College’s Fine Arts Center set to be opened next year, the character of downtown will begin to add the much needed cultural amenities like theatre, music and concerts that will alter the way we use the downtown. A destination center for all kinds of interests and tastes, the future looks bright indeed. Now if we can just find a place to park!

SM:  What are the biggest challenges facing Naperville in maintaining the vibrancy and present popularity we enjoy?

Ray Kinney:  It is often said it is easier to get to the top than to stay on top and I believe that to be true in many cases, and Naperville is no different. Increased competition from within our borders and large scale lifestyle centers in surrounding communities all will have an impact on where we choose to spend our time and our dollars. The economic engine that is the Naperville economy, including downtown, needs to stay wary of the developments not only outside of Naperville but internally as well. Issues like traffic congestion, property taxes, public safety, all will affect our region and to stay on top we will need to come together as a community to work on solutions that work for all of us. 

SM:  What is the secret of Naperville’s success?

Ray Kinney:  I don’t believe Naperville was an accident, nor is there a secret formula to creating a community that is successful. It started with Joe Naper and the early settlers and the type of community they dreamed of being. There are however a few important decisions along the way, that made it work – like making the train tracks run north of our downtown, can you imagine downtown Naperville with an at-grade railroad crossing? The vision of the folks that built Old Main in an effort to bring North Central College to Naperville created an environment that helped put Naperville on the map. But most importantly? The people make this town what it is – past and present, from the early settlers to present day, we have been blessed with residents that understand what community is all about, from  Naper to Nichols, from Knoch to Moser, from Fredenhagen to Rubin,  to you, this town called Naperville is truly special. The Naperville Spirit is what makes it happen, yesterday, today and hopefully, tomorrow!

Stay tuned for future installments of the Community Leader Series at the World of Naperville.  SM