The unofficial end of summer went out with drenching rain, a scattering of beachgoers and the occasional surfer trying to stretch some last-minute thrills out of a gray, wet Labor Day.
For those braving the weather and the traffic, Labor Day symbolizes the end of a vacation and a return to school, to work, to reality.
“Even though it’s not ideal weather, I think people are happy to get as much summer as they can before it’s back to the regular grind,” said Amy Rogers, 24, of the Tuckahoe section of Upper Township.
Rogers works the summer at her parents’ business, Surf Buggy Centers, which has a location on Eighth Street in Ocean City and rents equipment to families and individuals seeking to pedal along the Boardwalk.
“I think the nice people come out on the rainy days. They don’t mind if they get a little wet riding a bike or a surrey,” she said.
For the region’s tourism industry, Labor Day is by no means an end, as shore towns rely on summerlike temperatures and special events in the weekends that follow — often referred to as the shoulder season — to create as wide a tourism window as possible.
But although fall is nearly three weeks away on the calendar, Labor Day means the summer has ended for many.
“The last day of the summer, you have to make the best of it,” said Alex Kranjec, 26, of Philadelphia, who walked five blocks on a quiet Ocean City beach with his wife, Jaclyn.
Weather does not deter him from his routine when he vacations at the shore, something he has done in Ocean City all his life, he said.
“It’s the same we would have done anyway, walk on the beach, walk on the Boardwalk, go out to breakfast, play mini-golf,” he said. “I hadn’t been down all season, but I had to get one day in.”
Created to recognize American workers, Labor Day quickly evolved from a holiday observed only by municipalities and states to a federal holiday in the late 1800s.
New Jersey was one of the first six states to create a Labor Day holiday by 1887, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Congress made it a federal holiday in 1894.
The holiday — and the accompanying three-day weekend — became a keystone of summer shore tourism.
Nevertheless, Monday’s conditions were far from ideal.
“Labor Day has always been like this, I feel like,” said Pete Shields, 24, of Glenmoore, Pa., whose family has a house in Longport. He spent Monday afternoon surfing in Longport before planning to drive home that night.
Surfing, volleyball and bocce ball are all part of his Labor Day routine, he said.
Nancy Schilk, of Langhorne, Pa., said her family ended up cutting its weekend vacation a day short due to the weather but planned to squeeze in some shopping and a few amusement park rides for her daughter before they left.
“We’ll leave tonight, just to get home and do all our stuff,” she said. “There’s not as much to do, so we’re going to go shop and leave.”
The National Weather Service predicts more wet weather for much of the week, with heavy rain and thunderstorms likely through Thursday in the Atlantic City area.
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