This photo, taken on the Skyline Trail on Sept. 20, 2017, shows the fall colors that will soon be starting to pop now that Labor Day is here. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

This photo, taken on the Skyline Trail on Sept. 20, 2017, shows the fall colors that will soon be starting to pop now that Labor Day is here. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Column: Labor Day activities abound for peninsula folks

According to the United States Department of Labor, the Labor Day holiday is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers, and was created as an annual honor to those who keep this great country trucking along.

The first Labor Day was celebrated in 1882 New York City, and by 1894, Congress passed an act to make the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday.

It’s also unofficially recognized as the end of summer, although it’s about as realistic for much of the Lower 48 as the winter solstice is for marking the “beginning of winter” here in Alaska.

Labor Day itself is a bit of an oxymoron. We take time off to celebrate work. And do we truly honor the hard-working men and women of this country? By barbecuing with the old gang?

But since the holiday isn’t going anywhere soon, we may as well take advantage of the time off to enjoy the offerings of late summer in Alaska.

A brisk jaunt up Skyline this week reminded me that the summer warmth is still sticking around, as much as I am increasingly dreaming of winter.

The mountain also bore the burgeoning fruits of the summertime in the form of blueberries, which are beginning to reach peak plumpness, and the nonedible delights of the fall season that inspire the mind’s work — the vibrant crimson reds and banana yellows of the fireweed and tall grasses that paint an incredible watercolor on the slopes of the mountains.

Down off the mountains, there are other ways to make use of the holiday. Naturally, as a sports writer and fan, I’m drawn to the weekend’s events that lay plenty around the state and country.

On a national stage, Labor Day means football is right around the corner, and the collegiate game is already kicking off this weekend, so the couch will soon be taking on the true spirit of Labor Day every Sunday with a full workload.

September also means baseball’s pennant races are coming down to the wire, and teams are jostling for postseason spots to position themselves for a deep October run. Just as the ivy leaves on Wrigley Field’s outfield wall will be fading in the fall sunlight, the action on the diamond is about to turn up the wick.

The U.S. Open tennis tournament in Flushing Meadows (what a beautiful name) in New York is a good sign that summer is wilting.

Labor Day weekend also endears itself to me as a motorsports fan with the prestigious Southern 500 NASCAR race, a long-held tradition in the world of stock car racing that began in 1950.

Back here in the 49th state, high school football is getting into the meat of its schedule, cross-country runners are sharpening their craft amid the daintily falling leaves, and runners and bikers alike are working to get in the summertime plans on trails they haven’t yet traveled.

The Kenai River Brown Bears junior hockey team is also gearing up for its season, which begins in two weeks. Fans of the franchise can be thankful they still have a team to cheer for after the organization nearly folded in 2017. The chillier air that will soon invade the peninsula will hopefully signal rosier days for the Bears, which will hold open practices on Labor Day weekend that fans can come in to watch.

Plus, the Kenai River Marathon weekend is right around the corner, and this holiday weekend is one of the first that local runners will realize all that summer training that will be put to good use. Or, it could be the first weekend that they realize they ought to begin their endurance training.

The roars of the Twin City Raceway will also be going quiet soon, as night races next weekend will close out the 2018 season of fun at the one-third-mile oval dirt track.

There is a myriad of ways to enjoy the three-day weekend. Just be sure not to miss it.

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