For many people, today was the kind of day you just had to take advantage of.
As the clock started to run out on summer, the Labor Day holiday coincided with nearly perfect, 84-degrees-and-sunny weather, a treat for those who were free to enjoy it. Even those few actually laboring on Labor Day said they were exploiting the late-summer moment, getting some actual work done in peace before the start of the busy season.
They were wise to seize the day: a new academic year is poised to swallow up much of the city’s population who either go to school or work for one in the fall. And if the Farmer’s Almanac is to be believed, a cold, bitter winter is lurking further down the road.
But summer doesn’t officially end until Sept. 21 and today offered at least one more chance to enjoy it while it lasts. For some, that meant soaking up some rays on the final day before the city pool closed for the season. For others, it was prime time for some family moments at the park or on the lake.
Among those at Clinton Lake, watching sailboats drift around on the water and spreading sandwiches and cheese crackers over a picnic table, were Dwight Gipson and his family. While his grown children wrestled jet skis into the lake, Gipson, 68, of Mission, pulled a floppy hat down over his head and settled into a lawn chair next to his wife.
Gipson has been a truck driver for years and still has a week of vacation left, he said. He was pondering where the family might go for one last summer trip as he settled in by the lakeshore. But seemed in no hurry to think much beyond the task at hand. “I’m going to kick back,” he said. “It’s a really nice day.”
Some said it was better than nice. “It’s perfect,” said Will Chuber, 32, of Lawrence. The park was quiet, with only a few disc golfers scattered around, and the Chuber family was celebrating a special day for son George. “It’s my birthday,” said George, who turned three that day. After working up on appetite on the playground, he was looking forward to some lunch and a Jayhawk ice cream cake.
Chuber, who spent part of his summer working in the relatively cool Pacific Northwest, said he was happy to get back to Lawrence in time to enjoy the summer. In the fall, he’ll be busy working as an ROTC instructor at Kansas University. “It’s going to be paperwork and all of that,” he said. “I wonder how long the weather will hold.”
The KU campus, as might be expected, was largely deserted. But there still were a few dedicated individuals taking the opportunity to get some work done while there was no one around to distract them.
Eli Gold, a graduate student from Ithaca, New York, was virtually alone in the Art and Design building’s wood shop, where he spent the afternoon cleaning several old cedar beams that he had salvaged for a project. He wasn’t sure what he would do with them yet, but the wood is valuable and he had to get the staples and spiders off of them before he could do anything else.
He didn’t mind working on Labor Day, he said; he was just glad to have a chance to focus on his own work. During the school year, he is a graduate teaching assistant, often busy helping younger students. “It’s going to get kind of crazy around here,” Gold said. “Lots of demands on your energy and attention.”
Gold enjoyed a benefit of the day's relative coolness: the wood shop is the building's only room without air conditioning.
The cooler weather also meant that those taking a dip at the Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center on its final day of the summer season had to adjust a bit to the water temperature instead of diving in right away. "The girls said the water was a little cold," Bobbi Reid said as her two daughters, Madison, 8, and Raeanna, 14, dried off to head home for the day.
The Reids spent many of their summer days at the pool, where Raeanna liked to visit with her friends and Madison liked to swim in the deep end near the basketball hoops. They also took advantage of the free days and nice weather to go to Royals games and spend as much time outside as possible. Now that school has started, Raeanna is looking forward to her high school homecoming, but Madison wants it to be summer again so she can keep playing in the water. "I'm sad summer is over," Bobbi said. "It went by really fast, even though we didn't do a whole lot."
The pleasant day was fleeting, and anyone who failed to take advantage of it won’t get many more like it this year. The summer is likely to finish hot, with temperatures expected to ramp up again into the mid-90s later this week, according to the National Weather Service.
Not long after that, the summer will be over and the winter will be around the corner, with the Farmer’s Almanac predicting a season of “piercing cold with normal snowfall.” Meteorologists today don’t necessarily vouch for those long-term forecasts, but anyone who knows Kansas knows there’s no telling what to expect.
So, with 19 more days of summer left, it’s best to enjoy them by doing whatever you like. Or, by doing nothing at all.