Summer’s end by Debbie Carini
Labor Day is a curious holiday. It was officially established in 1887 by Grover Cleveland and dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers, but most folks today think of it as a three-day weekend accompanied by big markdowns on patio furniture.
It is always celebrated on the first Monday of September so that, over the years, it has also taken on significance as a child’s last, desperate moments of freedom before schools starts. And, just FYI, Labor Day is (or was) considered the last day of the year when it is fashionable to wear white or seersucker.
In our little town, Labor Day is brought to a close by the final concert in a summer-long series of Monday night performances. These weekly jam-sessions feature all manner of composition, from country to blues-and-soul to classic rock. Community members gather on the lawn in Memorial Park to picnic, party and partake of the offerings of the dedicated Kiwanis volunteers who staff the food concession.
With a bouquet of grilled hamburger wafting through the air, the evening kicks off with the Star Spangled Banner. And then folks retire to their chairs and blankets to enjoy the evening’s entertainment. Well, not all the folks though our town lacks an Arthur Murray Dance School, there are a number of citizens who “cut-a-rug” at the foot of the band shell. This year’s drought conditions have caused the “dance floor” to conjure dust bowl conditions evoking a smoky dance hall. But our citizens are undeterred. There are line dancers, swing dancers and what I would categorize as free-movement/modern-dance dancers.
The beauty of these concerts is that they not only bring the community together, they introduce listeners of all ages and predilections to music in all its forms. My children spent their early years clapping their hands to Motown and Beatles classics and my mom, who still attends nearly every concert with me, happily taps her feet to ’70s disco or big band swing.
The Night Blooming Jazzmen, a group founded in 1975, usually plays every summer. Their leader, Chet Jaegar, started playing the coronet in 1937. Throughout the evening, Chet happily provides historical illuminations on the pieces the band is playing—little known numbers such as “I’m Gonna Lock My Heart and Take Away the Key” and old-timey favorites like “It’s a Long Way To Tipperary.” And many of the dancers are in their teens and early 20s, learning about a musical genre they may have otherwise never been introduced to.
This Labor Day, we enjoyed the sounds of classic rock. And as little children ran through the crowd with glow sticks and neighbors enjoyed the fruits of their Coleman coolers, we wistfully said goodbye to summer. Well, kind of. On the walk home, my mom informed me that it was going to be 104 degrees by the end of the week with no let-up in sight.
Thank goodness Target has Halloween candy for sale in California. That’s the only way we actually know it’s autumn!