Category Archives: Naperville Events

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


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.

4 Ways to Source Locally Grown Foods in Naperville

Naperville CSA_edited-1by Stuart Meyer

As a child growing up in a small Kentucky town, it was easy to understand and appreciate that food did not grow on grocery store shelves.  We always had “community supported agriculture” because we would simply drive out to the family farms where we could buy most everything in season directly from the source, from vegetables to eggs.  All you had to do was pick up what you wanted and either knock on the front door to pay or leave a little money there in the honor-system box.

Nowadays, not only do our kids know less about where our food comes and how it’s produced, often times they miss out on the beauty of how fresh produce and fruit really tastes directly from the source at the point of harvest.  Once you taste fresh foods direct from the source, everything else pales in comparison.  Sure, we can buy watermelons and blueberries in February but the taste is almost always diminished because they were picked at a ripening stage designed for shipment over long distances, which still adds time between harvest and consumption.

Eating fresh locally sourced foods in support of community agriculture and family farms is very much possible in Naperville.  Below are 4 ways to “eat local” here in and around Naperville:

1)  Community Supported Agriculture (CSA):  We’ll start with CSA’s as number one because these local farms are not only a food source, they are anPicking Green Beans incredible source of hands-on education in farming and environmental sustainability.  Here in Naperville, the Green Earth Institute runs a 60 acre CSA farm out on Knoch Knolls Road just around the corner in South Naperville.  They grow 40 different crops and make their fresh harvest available via their CSA farm which the general public can purchase a “share” each Summer.  A share entitles you to either a weekly or bi-weekly portion of the week’s organic harvest which you pick up directly from the CSA farm.  Our family purchased a share last Summer and often times during the season you are allowed to hand-pick a portion.  The kids love the experience and just picking up our share was an education.  However, the  Green Earth Institute doesn’t stop there as they also offer children’s programs and volunteer opportunities.  Click hereto learn more.

2)  Naperville Community Garden Plots and Home Gardening:  From your backyard to Naperville’s backyard, there are terrific opportunities to grow Garden Plant Shoppingyour own fresh harvest.  The City of Naperville, through the Naperville Parks District, sets aside land over on West Street during the Summer months where you can reserve your own community garden plot and grow your own garden.  Of course, with a myriad of garden centers in town, including Keller’s Farmstand, you can always set up a small garden at home either in the ground or using planters on your back deck.

3)  Farmers Markets… with a Caveat: Naperville and many of our surrounding communities offer Farmers Markets weekly during the warmStrawberries weather months.  The Naperville Farmers Markets takes place in season every Saturday at the Fifth Avenue Station and, a newer addition, at Freedom Commons out by I-88.  Wanna find the freshest local products at these markets?  Simply ask the seller whether or not they are the actual grower.  Buying from the actual grower, as opposed to a reseller, means you’re getting it direct for the source and supporting family farmers.

4)  U-Pick Farms:  From the western suburbs to Michigan, there are abundant Blueberry Bucketoptions to take your family out for a fun day of harvesting your own local foods.  Each year, our family heads to South Haven, Michigan to DeGrandchamp Farms to pick 10-20 pounds of fresh blueberries at a time.  Don’t tell anyone, but we may eat one or two during the picking process.  While we eat a ton of fresh blueberries during the Summer, which are as sweet as candy, you can also freeze fresh blueberries for the winter by placing them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, freezing them and then putting into a freezer storage bag.Raspberry Picking

In the Fall, we head just out West to Jonamac Orchard to pick fresh apples right off the trees and enjoy some fresh apple cider doughnuts.  We also stop to pick fresh raspberries along the way from a number u-pick farms.

So there you have it, whether you love to cook, simply love to eat or would like to looking to teach your children that food doesn’t grow on grocery store shelves, there are plenty of ways to experience and support the miracle of locally grown foods in and around Naperville.  SM

“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:

The Naperville Wine Festival: A Quick Guide to the Perfect Experience

I had to include the word “experience” in the headline above because there is no other way to describe the Naperville Wine Festival, which will take place this Friday and Saturday (September 17-18, 2010) at one of my favorite places… the Naper Settlement in Downtown Naperville.

First and foremost, train it… cab it… do whatever you need to do to get into Downtown Naperville and keep yourself from being in the position of even thinking about driving home.

Based on my own personal experience, my strongest recommendation is to go in the evening hours just as daylight drifts toward the crisp Autumn night.  There is a certain magic in the air when you combine an Autumn night, the Naper Settlement and your journey through an international array of wines.

You can taste away the night beneath the stars knowing that a portion of your admission proceeds goes to the Naperville Area Humane Society.  Should raindrops crash the party, never fear… just cover your glasstic wine glass and the festival will march right on.

In terms of preparing yourself, I recommend eating something light before diving into the Festival as wine tastings are typically a bust on a full stomach and an early and disorienting night on an empty stomach.

There will be a number of local Naperville restaurants with food offerings at the Festival.  To me, part of the true experience is to snack on a little something at the Festival to pace your tasting and then take a short walk into Downtown after you are finished for a late dinner at one of Naperville’s many fine local restaurants.

After you finish your late dinner, I recommend capping off the evening with some chocolate indulgence at Le Chocolat or one of the many night spots in Downtown Naperville.  Should you subscribe to the ancient belief of “wine before beer, never fear” I recommend hitting the Grumpy Bulldog and watch your head spin for an entirely different reason as you enjoy the process of selecting a beer from their expansive global beer menu.  If you need a little head start, click here.   There is also Quigley’s Irish Pub for the best pint of Guiness in all of the Western Suburbs.  Beyond that, there are many more bars, music and dancing throughout Downtown.

The bottom line is make your Naperville Wine Festival experience a full night out in Downtown Naperville.  Pace yourself and most importantly, please please please do not drink and drive.  Designate a sober driver whose evening entertainment will consist of laughing at you OR take advantage of Naperville’s many local cabs.  Hope to see you there!

I invite you to share your own survival and enjoyment tips via a comment below.  SM

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

Don’t Miss Naperville’s African American Heritage Festival On April 16-17

The true richness of any society can only be measured by its depth of cultural appreciation, understanding and celebration of diverse traditions.  The more we engage and explore our unique differences, the more we learn about ourselves and the common bond we share together as one human race.

While we live in the “backyard” of what I consider to be the most celebrated culturally diverse city in the country, our very own community is blessed with a level of diversity that sometimes gets overlooked.

This weekend, thanks to the African American Leadership Roundtable and Naperville’s SECA grant program, our community will have the opportunity to join together in an exciting celebration of African American Heritage at the 2010 African American Heritage Festival.  The Festival will take place on April 16-17 at the Wentz Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center at North Central College.

Below you will find the schedule of events:

Friday, April 16

Liturgical Dance Fitness Session (4 – 6:00p.m.)
Festival Kick-Off & Welcome Reception (6:00 p.m.)
William H. Bigham Galleries Art Showcase (6 – 9:00 p.m.)
Glennette Tilley Turner Book signing (6:00 p.m.)
The Dreamers Wax Museum of African American History
(Encore Exhibit) (6:30 – 8:00 p.m.)
Called 2 Dance Performance* (8:00 p.m.)

Saturday, April 17

William H. Bigham Galleries Art Showcase (10 a.m. – 9 p.m.)
Liturgical Dance Workshops – $20 Fee (10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.)
New Branch Theatre Company ( 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon)
ACT-SO Exhibits (12 noon – 5:00 p.m.)
ACT-SO Showcase Performances (1:30 – 3:30 p.m.)
Community Mass Choir Workshop – $20 Fee (4:00 p.m.)
African American History Workshop with Glennette Tilley Turner ( 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.)
Gospel Fest Musical Concert* featuring The Community Mass Choir & Grammy Winner Darius Brooks (7:00 p.m.)

To learn more, visit the event website at:


Loss of Naper Days Festival a Deep Loss for Our Naperville Community

As many of you may know, the Naper Days Festival has welcomed the summer festival season to Naperville for the past six years.  Having only missed one year at Naper Days, I’ve always looked forward to the event not only for the Taste of Naperville and live music, but as a deliberate chance to spend some time on the grounds experiencing the Naper Settlement, our community’s historical crown jewel.

Despite the challenges of staging this large festival on Father’s Day Weekend, I always liked to stand back at Naper Days seeing it not only as a celebration of summer, but as a glimpse into the history, heart and soul of our community as we gathered together in a way that cannot be achieved via Ribfest or even Last Fling.

It is with these thoughts that I was very saddened to learn upon visiting the Naper Days site a few minutes ago to gather this year’s dates that the festival has been “retired” citing “declining revenues combined with the current economic environment“.

I realize this event was a means to financially benefit the Naper Settlement and the Naperville Heritage Society; however, it’s sad to see how quickly we give up at a time when our community needs more than ever to come together, to be together, to celebrate Naperville in a way that is lost in the mix of other local festivals.

I’ve always believed that money is a measure of survival, not of purpose.  In my mind, the scope of this festival has a broader reach as there is no better platform offered throughout the year for the Naper Settlement to share its purpose with the community than Naper Days.  In the process of fund raising, we must never overlook the significant importance of friend raising and bringing the community and families together.  SM

Mint Juleps, Southern Food and Great People Highlight Kentucky Derby 135 Party in Naperville

derby-1Some thought it was a longer shot than Mine That Bird to think that I would find enough people interested in the Kentucky Derby here in the Western Suburbs and Greater Chicagoland area to pull off a daylong traditional Derby Party.  I’ve always liked longshots and Saturday turned out to be the perfect day for bringing a little Derby tradition to our Naperville home.  With much thanks to my wife and fellow co-hosts of Tim Courtney, John Dallas Jr., Eric Broughton and Jason Jacobsohn… better known as the Fantastic Five.


As I mentioned in our previous posting, the was plenty of fresh mint juleps and Kentucky food, including Keene’s Kentucky Country Ham from Bardstown, Derby biscuits, Derby Pie from my mom’s own recipe, Roasted Garlic and Marscapone Cheese Grits, Fried Chicken, Macaroni and Cheese, Corn Casserole, homemade Kentucky Beer Cheese and much more.  I would like to publicly thank my wife for all of her efforts, support and tolerance in the construction of this genuine Kentucky experience.  I’m from Kentucky and she’s from New York so let’s just say she was a great sport.  I also want to thank my mother-in-law who was in town and provided allot of great help.


To get everyone in the full spirit, we featured a special bourbon tasting which consisted of 8 different Kentucky Bourbons.  In addition to the bottle of Willett Pot Still Reserve we contributed, other guests opted to bring a bottle as well.  In the end, we had the following Kentucky brands:  Willett, Jefferson’s Reserve, Bulleit, Knob Creek, Woodford Reserve, Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam and Evan Williams.  Judging by the bourbon levels in each bottle on Sunday morning, the clear favorites were the Willett Pot Still Reserve and Woodford Reserve.

Derby_ToddIn our party’s “winner takes all” betting pool on the Derby race, I will say that nobody picked the 50-1 shocker of Mine That Bird.  Of course, at the end of the day a great Derby Party is all about a gathering of great people and I want to thank everyone for coming out to Naperville to share in this wonderful tradition.

Derby_Fab Five

Derby_Kevin and TrayceDerby_Pam and Greg

Derby_Gene EricDerby_Final

Countdown to My Old Kentucky Derby Party at My Naperville Home

derby-2009-inviteBeing a Kentucky native, you might imagine how homesick I tend to get this time of year as we approach the rich tradition of the Kentucky Derby, or as Kentuckians refer to it… the first Saturday in May.

Though the actual Kentucky Derby, traditionally the fifth race of the day, lasts only a couple of minutes, Derby Day in Kentucky is the culmination of the month-long Kentucky Derby Festival.  Throughout the month of April, there are countless Kentucky Derby Festival events, including steamboat races, hot-air balloon races, concerts, parades, celebrity galas, formal balls, plenty of fireworks, lots of indulgent Southern food and much more.

Churchill Downs opens its traditional Spring meet the Friday before Derby Day, which is known as Oaks Day, which ends with the running of the Kentucky Oaks.

I am asked all the time how many Kentucky Derbys I’ve attended at Churchill Downs and, as any Kentuckian would understand, it’s only been one.  Let’s just say my job out of college put me at the epicenter of the VIP Kentucky Derby experience.  Nonetheless, most Kentuckians prefer to by-pass the crushing madness of Churchill Downs in exchange for a hosted Derby Party.  Kentucky Derby Parties are legendary and full of tradition. 

I’m excited to be launching a Kentucky Derby Party tradition this year at my Naperville Home.  Wish I could invite everyone, but space is limited at “My Old Naperville Home”.  But “weep not more” my friends as here is some insight into what I have planned for the big day.

First, my guests will begin arriving around post time for the first race of the day, around 12:00 EDT/1:00 CDT.  ESPN is covering breakfast at the Downs as well as all races leading up to the actual Kentucky Derby race. 

The menu will include plenty of Southern Bluegrass Tradition:  Country Ham I’ve shipped in from Keene’s Hams in Bardstown, Kentucky Derby Breakfast Yeast Biscuits, Garlic Cheese Grits, Fried Chicken, Kentucky Beer Cheese, Derby Pie and much more.

Our guests will certainly get in the spirit with a nearly 200 year-old recipe for Mint Juleps, which consists of a minted sugar syrup blended with fresh mint, crushed ice and straight Kentucky bourbon.  Additionally, we will also have a bourbon tasting line-up for 5-10 lesser-known Kentucky-based brands.  

Speaking of bourbon, did you know that 90% of all bourbon whiskey in the world is produced in Kentucky?  There are over 80 Kentucky-based bourbon brands who export their tradition all over the country and world… even Tennessee.  Bourbon is known as the official American Spirit and takes its name from Bourbon County in Kentucky where some of the earliest whiskey was placed into charred oak barrels for transport from which bourbon derives its color and distinctive flavor 

I grew up very close to bourbon country and even as a child I can remember riding past the  Jim Beam distillery on the way to my grandmothers house and smelling the familiar bourbon mash in the air.  Makers Mark  is located just outside of my mother’s hometown of Lebanon. 

If you are interested in the history and tradition of bourbon, you should consider making a trip to Kentucky to cruise the Kentucky Bourbon Trail where you can visit and tour eight distilleries.

As for me, it’s back to the last minute details as Saturday approaches.  SM