Labor Day Weekend on the island is always met each year with a mix of emotions. For one, everyone knows that after Labor Day the endless days of summer are officially over on the island except for the weekends, when the town quietly starts to dwindle down to the locals and hustles and bustles again Friday and Saturday and Sunday. For another, Labor Day marks the beginning of a new season filled with crisper, cooler weather, new activities and new beginnings. But for all, no matter what side of the spectrum, Labor Day Weekend is always started and ended with a bang. A kick-off. A last goodbye, hurrah to summer, and a warm, anticipated welcome to fall.
In theory, this weekend is one of the busiest for the island during the season because everyone in the area wants to take part in the three to four-day celebration to kiss their favorite summer activities goodbye—one final day at the beach, one last night on the boardwalk, one more blowout barbeque on your friend’s backyard lawn. Rio Grande Avenue is backed up for hours with cars waiting at lights to enter Wildwood, while the left lane to exit the island is completely empty. Restaurants have lines pouring out the front doors and looping around the building. The streets are packed with bikers and runners and walkers. The stores are booming with business at the opening of a cash register. And everything on the island is how it should be in the height of the summer season.
The beach is always a favorite during the weekend, mainly because locals and vacationers alike know having the luxury of the sun and sand and water won’t last all year long. Looking down at the coast from atop of a dune, the shoreline is unrecognizable. Striped and zigzagged umbrellas of all sizes and colors are in full bloom. Kites are flying through the air, while fathers help their children pioneer them from the ground. The lifeguards blow their whistles right before swimmers submerge themselves and disappear under a wave. “Fudgy wudgy” can be heard through the laughing of the crowd plopped in beach chairs and the crashing of the waves along the shore. And the sun can be felt warming your body while you bask in the sand. With an occasional game of horseshoes and volleyball, mixed with some family, friends, food and some carefully chosen drinks, the beach is the perfect Labor Day Weekend afternoon activity.
When the sun falls and the breeze cools, the boardwalk is the ultimate Labor Day Weekend nighttime attraction. Families with children cover the boards. Teenagers in groups gather in clumps around the benches by the rails. Games buzzing echo through the air, accompanied by faint screams in the distance when roller coasters fall down the ramp. The smell of cotton candy, the popping of fresh popcorn, the baking of homemade pizza pies. Old-time photos, carnival attractions, state-of-the-art amusements and rides, sidewalk stores, crowds, screaming, laughing, ice cream. And then suddenly there’s a pause. And everything stops, and all are silent as they stand and watch the firework show, with its bright colors popping and weaving and banging and exploding against the dark night sky, serving as the perfect ending to a perfect Wildwood summer day and night. The cherry on top, if you will.
Sundays of Labor Day Weekend are usually reserved for the outback barbequing. You spend the day cleaning your house, preparing and cooking and setting up the backyard with coolers, tables and chairs and various outdoor games. Fifty of your closes friends and family come over by five o’clock in a sort of pot-luck style way, all bringing something with them to contribute to the event. Homemade food is aligned in a buffet style along a line of picnic tables, while some of your favorite summer tunes play from your iPod in the background, setting the mood for relaxation, fun and enjoyment sometimes reaching into the early hours of the morning. And then comes the last day of the weekend.
This Labor Day Weekend Monday was met with a sting. Cars lined the exit lane at lights, waiting to exit the island for maybe the last time of the season, with hopes of returning for a weekend or two in September. Restaurants were a little less crowded, the stores a little more empty, the cash register a little more delayed, the bikers and walkers a little more few.
But as we say goodbye to summer for a little while, the island welcomes the new season sneaking up on it with open arms. Fall is a time for change and transition. The weather changes, the everyday activity changes. Business changes, as well as the overall island mentality. Back to school nights take precedent, along with new jobs, new sports, new community events. New friendships. New priorities. New beginnings. But only for a little while, until we see the sweet return of summer ahead of us again.
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