Labor Day crowds flock to the shore But traffic is light around Ocean City, Sandy Point beaches


Labor Day, sometimes called one of the bookends of summer, closes the chapter on those long, leisurely days and hot sunny weekends.

But don't tell that to beachcombers at Sandy Point State Park outside Annapolis.

Joe Henderson, 22, a Towson retail sales manager who spent the afternoon on a beach blanket, wasn't ready to give in.

"It doesn't get too cold here too quickly," the Akron, Ohio, transplant said. "There's a lot of nice days left, just not as hot."

Fran Gower, park ranger supervisor, agreed.

"We're open year-round," she said. "We'll get people who come down in October if it's a nice day," she said, "or they'll come down and look at the migratory birds."

Hundreds of children splashed and swam on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay. Nearby, others dug sand trenches with plastic pails, and adults -- in couples, alone and with families and friends -- lounged on the orange-brown sand with lawn chairs surrounded by children's floating devices, coolers and at least one portable TV.

Like a good restaurant, Sandy Point had a long wait for tables as 4,000 to 4,500 people filled the beach near the Bay Bridge.

"I think the only problem they have is they don't have enough picnic tables," said Tracie McClune, 35, who spent an hour and 45 minutes traveling to the beach from York, Pa., with nine relatives. She and her family spread out on blankets near a small portable grill where chicken breasts, steaks and blackened hot dogs were sizzling.

A group of Delta Sigma Theta sorority sisters from Morgan State University used the beach as a table and their towels as tablecloths, and lolled under the sun surrounded by bags of chips and pretzels, along with fried chicken and potato salad.

"It's a nice place to go and relax before work tomorrow," said Maisha Pompey, 24, an engineer for a Baltimore communications company.

Tonya Waddell of Owings Mills said the end of the summer fills her with sadness. "We've been working forever, and this is like our last day to celebrate," said the 23-year-old systems engineer for Bell Atlantic.

The first Monday in September was dubbed Labor Day more than 100 years ago. It was first celebrated in 1882 in New York City as a holiday for workers. In 1894, Congress passed an act making it a legal holiday.

Many workers who had the day, or recent weeks, off for vacation returned to the Baltimore area yesterday, but their arrival did not lead to another Labor Day tradition -- the traffic jam.

Ocean City, always a big draw, was safe and splendid, said 1st Lt. Skip Lee of Ocean City Beach Patrol.

"It was the best in 16 years; the weather really cooperated better than ever," he said, noting that unlike most summers, there were no tropical storms.

Lifeguards made 2,763 rescues this year, 263 more than last year but fewer than half the number recorded in 1995, Lee said.

Traffic from Ocean City was light, in part because a storm at 3: 45 p.m. prompted lifeguards to temporarily clear the beach. Many visitors did not return.

"There's nothing on the road right now," Lee said at 5: 45. "That's very untypical for a big holiday."

As of today, the number of lifeguards on duty on weekdays will shrink to 29 from about 86, Lee said.

About 80 miles away, motorists moved smartly across the Bay Bridge. An estimated 70,000 to 72,000 cars went east across the bridge from Friday to yesterday, said Lori Vidil, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Transportation Authority.

Some Marylanders bid farewell yesterday to summer and the 116th annual Maryland State Fair, which closed its 10-day run at the fairgrounds in Timonium at 11 p.m.

George S. Wills, a fair spokesman, said about a half million people went to the fair.

For the second year, a brown, spotless 7 1/2 -year-old Jersey cow named Sparklers Unique Jeanna, owned by Michael Heath and Douglas King of Westminster, bested 500 other dairy cattle for the title of champion.

"It had a very large capacity for milk in terms of her udder, depth of size and rib scale, which indicates capacity for absorbing large amounts of grain and hay, and legs that are straight," Wills said.

Pub Date: 9/02/97

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