Labor Day Festivities From Coast to Coast
From sea to shining sea, the USA is set to celebrate its last weekend of summer with picnics and parades, fireworks festivals and art shows. Load the barbecue with apple wood chips, give your sunglasses a good polish, and raise one last toast to summer 2011. It sure has been an interesting one.
By Lena Katz
Smokin' in Mesquite BBQ Championships | Nevada
For foodies who follow the Kansas City Barbecue Society circuit, Labor Day is when the spotlight curves around to the Nevada desert for the Smokin' in Mesquite BBQ Championships. Bobby Flay's just a Hollywood boy compared to the 'cue-masters who congregate here, bringing their techniques, secret ingredients and family lore to the foregrill for $40K in cash and prizes. This photo of last year's special guest Johnny Trigg sums up everything we love about Labor Day picnics: men who grill and American Southwest road food.
Photo Credit: Casablanca Resort
Sausalito Art Festival | California
On the flip side of the KCBS is oh-so-chic Marin County, San Francisco's northwardly neighbor that's known for its pretty suburban towns and redwood forests. The big Labor Day event here is Sausalito Art Festival, now in its 59th year and preparing to welcome as many as 35,000 people...if last year's crowd is any kind of measuring gage. Live music, a waterfront setting, and copious amounts of Northern California wine support the main attraction: over 20,000 pieces of art in every medium from fiber to mixed modern.
Photo Credit: Top Productions
Lake of the Ozarks | Missouri
The recipe for a perfect all-American Labor Day always includes picnicking, water sports and fireworks; and Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri has no less than three firework shows, all staged by different hotels located around the lake shore. In the daytime, boating, fishing, mini-golf and action water sports are among the most popular all-ages activities.
Photo Credit: Lake of the Ozarks CVB
Southern Gospel Picnic Festival | Missouri
If the lake is the picnic spot, Branson's where the party's at...at least from a very family-friendly, country music perspective. Branson Landing will have a Labor Day concert series, Silver Dollar City presents the Southern Gospel Picnic Festival, and Chateau on the Lake (pictured) has a costume character version of mascot Lucky the Bear handing out cookies by day, and an annual holiday BBQ and fireworks display by night on September 4.
Boomsday Festival | Tennessee
There are fireworks and then there are !!!FIREWORKS!!! The big-ticket pyrotechnics every city springs for on Fourth of July get a Southern-style reprise in Knoxville, Tennessee, during the annual Boomsday Festival. This is the country's largest Labor Day fireworks show, and the town's biggest annual event. Live entertainment and carnival-style attractions kick off at 1 p.m., while the show takes place at 9:30 p.m. over Railroad Bridge.
Photo Credit: Knoxville Tourism & Sports
Fort Bridger Rendezvous | Wyoming
Meanwhile, out in Wyoming, the Fort Bridger Rendezvous proves with just one photo that, for some people, the West was just won like maybe three days ago - and Davy Crockett still roams the wild frontier. If seed beads, teepees and buckskin drawers are your style, this is your kind of party. Awesomely, Rendezvous is the second-largest annual event in Wyoming's calendar year, behind Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Bigfoot Parade | California
Eternally at the top of our "Quirky California" list, Humboldt County actually takes a day this weekend to celebrate its idiosyncrasies...and dare we say, laugh at itself? This region is usually distinguished by its tall, mysterious redwood groves and tall, mysterious locals in camouflage who'd rather you not look at them. But on Labor Day, they hold a weekend celebration of the "legendary paleo-hominid" that features not only fancy vocabulary, but also amazing food (a deep pit BBQ, oyster feed and ice cream + cake social), old-school fair games like a lawn mower race, and a Bigfoot parade on Saturday morning in Willow Creek, the "Bigfoot capital" of the Western world.
Photo Credit: Redwoods Info
UT Austin Football | Texas
College football in Austin, Texas is one of the only things that ties this notoriously "blue dot" city to its red state neighbors. Austin goes absolutely crazy for its home team, the University of Texas Longhorns, and Labor Day marks the first game of the season. There's a longstanding rivalry between UT and Rice University, ensuring that regardless of the game itself, the stands will be full, and the tailgate parties in full effect.
Beach, Boogie + BBQ Festival | South Carolina
Myrtle Beach is serving up Southern barbecue and reality star appearances this year: American Idol's Josh Gracin and Top Chef: All Stars winner Richard Blais are both guests at the annual Beach, Boogie + BBQ festival. Gracin's the entertainment headliner; Blais is signing autographs. For both entertainment and food, guests anticipate three cook-offs that will take place over the weekend. "Anything Goes" is a freestyle cooking contest, while the S.C. Barbecue Championship and Kansas City Barbecue Society Cook-Off both take place on Saturday.
HARVEST Wine Salons | New York
Over in upper New York state, the Long Island scene shifts from Hamptons too-sexy-for-you to low-key East End wine tourism. Labor Day HARVEST Wine Salons begin on the South Fork (the corner of the island known more for Sag Harbor socialites than for wineries) and progress to the North Fork on Saturday and for two weekends afterward. Wine Salons range from culinary appreciation to behind-the-scenes local niche history, but no matter what, manage to charm with their clearly local, non-Disney approach - something which Sonoma et. al over in California seem to be lacking.
Photo Credit: John Cameron
Sample the Sierra Street Festival | California
We wrap up this coast-to-coast journey in Lake Tahoe where Labor Day celebrations are equally festive on the Nevada and California sides. Farmers and chefs collaborate in South Lake Tahoe's "Sample the Sierra" street festival. Tahoe City on the North Shore hosts a free live Concert at Commons Beach, followed by a street party on Main Street on Monday.
Photo Credit: Tahoe City, CA