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Labor Day: Summer Winds Up with One Last Bash

September 2, 1986

Undated (AP) _ Americans honored the working man and woman by not working Monday, taking in the end-of-summer Labor Day holiday with activities ranging from hiking across the Mackinac Bridge in northern Michigan to choosing from 120 kinds of ice cream topping in Philadelphia.

Politicians marked the traditional start of the fall campaign season with handshakes and speeches, and union activists pressed their claims. But chilly weather put a damper on activities in the South, and in New York City the Labor Day parade was canceled when union leaders decided to give participants a day off instead.

In Philadelphia thousands of people came to the Delaware River waterfront for the first annual Ice Cream and Music Festival. Sundaes could be personalized with any of 120 toppings, to the accompanyment of a Latin jazz ensemble Masala and the 590th Air Force Band.

In Michigan, 50,000 hardier souls including Gov. James Blanchard and Republican challenger William Lucas, rose early to make the annual Labor Day walk beginning across the Mackinac Bridge. The walk has been a tradition since the five-mile span linking Michigan’s peninsulas was opened in 1957.

Hardier still was Brendt Smith, a 27-year-old Warsaw, Ind., insurance salesman who was spending a chilly Labor Day swimming across 52 lakes to honor the memory of his father and to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

Smith, whose father died of cancer three years ago at age 52, hoped to cover 16 to 18 swimming miles before the day was over.

″The water’s great, it’s just the air,″ he said in between lakes. ″It takes your muscles into a tailspin.″ The temperature outside was 48 degrees when he began; the water was abot 75 degrees.

The chill also was felt by Steve Wozniak, 71, and Jim Quinn, 51, who completed nine miles of a planned 10-mile swim in the harbor of Buffalo, N.Y., each with his feet tied together with strips of inner tube. The Lake Erie water was too cold to go any farther, they said.

In Chicago, about 40,000 union members marched down Michigan Avenue in a parade headed by AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland, joining Gov. James R. Thompson, the first Republican to be endorsed by the state AFL-CIO.

Thompson criticized third party-candidate Adlai Stevenson, whom he faces in the November election, for not being present. Stevenson was in East Moline, but his supporters handed out leaflets in Chicago saying ″Parades don’t save jobs″ and noting that the state had lost 500,000 jobs under Thompson’s tenure.

Richard Trumka, the international president of the United Mine Workers union, served as grand marshal of the Labor Day parade in Princeton, Ind. The town of 9,000 has marked the holiday for 100 years, getting an eight-year head start on the national celebration approved by the U.S. Congress in 1894.

In Detroit, twin parades, one held by the Teamsters union, the other by other union groups, drew an estimated 165,000 participants and spectators.

But in New York City, the Labor Day parade was canceled in July. Thomas Van Arsdale, head of the New York Central Labor Council, said it was felt that ″the members who participate and the people who do the work would welcome a day off.″ The New York parade was first held in 1882 and has been held intermittently ever since.

Instead, about 15 unions organized a concert by folk singer Pete Seeger and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union chorus in Central Park, where organizers estimated the crowd at about 1,500.

Labor Day was strike day for nearly 500 steelworkers in Bridgeport, Conn., who staged a walkout against Carpenter Technology Corp., the first at the plant since 1968.

″We will walk the picket line on Labor Day,″ union spokesman Edwin A. Gomes said. ″We feel that is very, very appropriate.″

In Tennessee and Georgia, Labor Day felt more like Thanksgiving Day, with drizzly skies and high temperatures in the 70s, the normal lows for this time of year.

Monday’s outdoor ″Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival″ at Nashville’s Opryland USA concert was moved inside the Grand Ole Opry House, said Tom Adkinson, an Opryland spokesman.

Tennessee politicians spent the day at picnics and, in the case of gubernatorial hopeful Ned McWherter, the opening of the dove hunting season.

In Georgia, a hot-air balloon festival at Stone Mountain Park outside Atlanta was grounded for the second day because of the weather.

The Greater Boston branch of the AFL-CIO endorsed Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis at a Labor Day breakfast Monday, and even his rival, Republican gubernatorial candidate George Kariotis, attended the event, a Boston tradition for decades.

Dukakis noted the workplace has changed since the days ″when someone worked from 6 in the morning till 6 at night (and) a manufacturer was quoted as saying ’I treat my workers like I treat my machines.‴

A lighter campaign note was struck by George Haley, a Republican U.S. Senate hopeful in Maryland, who brought an elephant to Ocean City on Monday to publicize his campaign. The elephant drew ″a pretty good crowd″ near the Carousel Hotel, said front desk clerk Sarah Lynch. But the pachyderm couldn’t go down to the water to cool off because of ordinance banning animals on the beach.

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