A countdown clock on the wall of Sam's Pizza Palace in Wildwood keeps track of the seconds to Labor Day.

The clock, co-owner Anthony Zuccarello said, is so well known that people around town always ask him: "How much time is left?"

Despite attempts by beach resorts and tourism boards to bolster the Jersey Shore's shoulder season, Labor Day still marks the end of summer for most visitors.

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But while the holiday is historically known as the last big weekend for beachgoers, a number of less conventional events are vying to draw them out from under their beach umbrellas.

"Traditionally, there was no need to have an event because Labor Day was the event," said Deborah Bass, deputy director of the Cape May County Department of Tourism.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the holiday was adopted by Congress in 1894 to celebrate the achievements of the American worker. That meaning is lost on most visitors today, who have a plethora of options to celebrate their day off work - from festivals to fireworks to block parties to craft shows.

For more than a decade, Longport has marked the holiday with its annual fireworks display, the only officially sanctioned one on Absecon Island this year.

The half-hour display is funded through donations, which were hard to come by in a year of Hurricane Sandy cleanup, but Mayor Nick Russo said the community rallied in the past week to support the tradition. In addition to the fireworks, the borough allows charcoal grills on the beach for the holiday.

"Even though we're a small community, it's always been one that attracted a lot of attention," he said. "This is a way of celebrating the summer with one last fling."

One of the less conventional Labor Day events is the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum's AirFest. The event, in its 17th year, will begin Friday with a detachment of historic bomber planes from the Collings Foundation flying into Cape May Airport in Lower Township.

Bruce Fournier, NASW's executive director, said the event is one of the nonprofit's biggest fundraisers. With it taking place on Labor Day weekend this year, he expects an even larger turnout.

"It's a little hard because we're at the Cape May Airport, not in Wildwood," he said. "Although we've grown quite a bit, people are still finding out about us. But once they do, they really like the experience."

In addition to the historic planes stationed there year-round, visiting planes include the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and the P-51 Mustang. The aircraft give people a sense of what it was like fighting in World War II, Fournier said.

"The B-17 looks like a huge aircraft from the outside," he said. "I'm 6-foot-1 or 6-foot-2, and I can't believe how low the ceilings are. When you actually get in those aircraft, you feel the experience of what those young men went through."

Wildwood, in particular, has pulled out the stops this Labor Day weekend, with Friday night fireworks, a two-day craft show at its Convention Center, and a block party and music festival at Fox Park on Sunday.

John Siciliano, executive director of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority, said the weekend, a time for barbecues and family get-togethers, doesn't lend itself to hosting too many organized events. But events such as the music festival and block party still draw a crowd of 5,000 to 6,000, he said.

"Years ago, it was a big thing to come down and close the summer," Siciliano said of the holiday, adding that today, with changing school calendars and a large slate of fall events, Labor Day's role has changed.

The events, Bass said, offer something extra to visitors who are likely already heading to the shore.

"It's just added value for the people coming down," she said.

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Labor Day Weekend events


When: 2-5 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Monday

Where: Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum, 500 Forrestal Road Cape May Airport, Lower Township

Cost: adults $12, children $8, children 3 and under free

More info: Visit usnasw.org

Atlantic City Comedy Festival

When: 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City

Cost: $45-$80

More info: Visit www.accomedyfestival.com

FunFest Weekend at Historic Cold Spring Village

When: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: 720 Route 9 South, Cape May

Cost: adults $10, children 3-12 $8, children 3 and under free

More info: Call 609-898-2300

Handcraft Unlimited Labor Day Craft Show

When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday

Where: Wildwoods Convention Center

Cost: $3, children under 12 free

Longport Labor Day fireworks

When: 9 p.m. Saturday (rain date Sunday)

Where: 33rd Street beach, Longport

Cost: Free

Mayor's Labor Day 5K

When: 9 a.m. Monday

Where: 23rd Street beach, Ocean City

Cost: $25 race-day registration (7-8:30 a.m.)

More info: Call 609-398-6900

Tomato Festival

When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday (rain date Sunday)

Where: Wilbraham Park, West Cape May

Cost: Free

More info: Call 609-884-9325

Viking Village Arts and Crafts Show

When: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Viking Village, 19th St. and Bayview Ave., Barnegat Light

Cost: Free

More info: Call 609-391-7008

Wildwood Labor Day fireworks

When: 10 p.m. Friday

Where: Pine Avenue beach, Wildwood

Cost: Free

Wildwood Block Party and Music Festival

When: Noon to 11 p.m. Sunday

Where: Fox Park, Burk and Ocean avenues, Wildwood

Cost: Free

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