In 1887, Labor Day became an official holiday in the United States to celebrate the contributions workers have made to their country, and to commemorate their achievements. Since that time, towns large and small have created parades and festivals to mark the holiday. We’ve rounded up some of the most unique small town Labor Day celebrations around the country, many of which are steeped in history and provide entertainment for the entire family.
Fort Bragg, California
In Fort Bragg, CA, right off the beautiful Mendocino coast, is the 75th Anniversary of the Paul Bunyan Days celebration. This celebration honors the memory of the famous logger, Paul Bunyan, his giant blue ox Babe, and the history of the people who live here. There will be a logging show and competition, a parade, arts and crafts, a book fair, and a gem, mineral, and fossil show.
Matthews, North Carolina
Matthews, North Carolina, a little town at the eastern edge of Charlotte, is having its 22nd Matthews Alive Festival and Parade this Labor Day. The festival is located in Matthews’ historic downtown and spans four full days—from Friday evening, August 29 until Monday, September 1. On Saturday morning, there is the largest Labor Day parade in the Southeast, with floats and marching bands. Throughout the whole weekend, attendees can enjoy carnival rides, a craft pavilion, pony rides, juggling and magic acts, and live music.
Cayucos, CA is known as the town “where the Old West meets the Ocean.” This untouched countryside and tiny beach town is located right on the scenic coast, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. During Labor Day weekend, Cayucos is having a Peddler’s Faire from 7am to 4pm at the Cayucos Creek Lot. Visitors can stroll among an eclectic mix of antiques, arts and crafts, homemade goods, jewelry, and flea market vendors. On August 31, they are also having a Cayucos Fire Department Bar-b-que Fundraiser.
Francestown, New Hampshire is a small rural town in the Monadnock Region of southern New Hampshire. It was established in 1772 and named after Frances Wentworth Deering, the wife of the then-Governor of New Hampshire. High-quality soapstone was also discovered in this town in the early 1800s, and was used for foot warmers, woodstoves, and sinks. For Labor Day, Francetown’s Improvement and Historical Society are putting together its 97th Annual Labor Day Celebration, complete with dances at the town hall, a tennis tournament, races, food vendors, book vendors, a parade, and all sorts of entertainment.
The Labor Day celebration in Birmingham takes place in a historical state park called Tannehill Ironworks. This state park houses more than 1,500 acres set aside for hiking, camping, and outdoor recreation. From spring through fall, history is preserved through tradesmen and artisans (such as blacksmiths and millers) who occupy the restored pioneer cabins. These tradesmen demonstrate their trade, sit on their front porches, and chat with visitors who walk through the area. During Labor Day weekend, visitors can participate in Alabama’s largest moon pie eating contest, complete with cash prizes. The United Mine Workers also holds its annual Birmingham District Labor Day celebration.
For more unique celebrations and festivals around the country, check out:
- America’s Best Small-Town Fourth of July Celebrations
- Four Southern Food Festivals You Can’t Miss
- 2014 Summer Theater Festivals Worth Seeing
By Jessica May Tang for PeterGreenberg.com