Labor Day is more than just a day off from work and school. It’s a national dedication to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It’s also the unofficial end of summer and a great chance to celebrate with picnics, festivals and family fun. To kick off Labor Day 2012 weekend, here’s a bit of history and trivia, plus some great things to do in and around Atlanta.
The History of Labor Day
- The first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City. Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, is said to be the founder of Labor Day. However, others point to Matthew Maguire, a machinist from Patterson, New Jersey. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic in 1882 and 1883.
- President Grover Cleveland introduced a bill to Congress making Labor Day a national holiday in 1884. It was unanimously passed and signed into law in an attempt to quell any harsh feelings after the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the US military and U.S. marshals during the 1984 Pullman Strike.
- Today, Labor Day is symbolic of the end of summer. It’s often celebratedwith festivals, parades and a day of rest. It also signals the beginning of the NCAA college football season. However, for many, it remains a national tribute to the American worker who made this nation what it is today.
Interesting Trivia Facts About Labor Day:
- 10,000 workers took an unpaid holiday to march in the first Labor Day parade.
- Labor Day was founded when many in America worked 16-hour days in harsh work environments.
- “No white after Labor Day” was the old-fashioned style rule. Today’s fashion rules now shy away from this outdated policy.
- Labor Day celebrations have shifted from parades and demonstrations to speeches and picnics.
- Labor Day is now celebrated not only in the United States, but also in Canada and other industrialized nations.
- The American labor force today is a far cry for where it began in the 1800s. Although an eight hour work day and a minimum wage may seem standard today, this was not so when Labor Day was first celebrated.
- In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act making the minimum wage $0.25 an hour and a maximum of 44 hours in a work week. The Act has been revised multiple times, eventually raising the minimum wage and cutting down workweeks.
- In 1962, the Work Hours Act provided time and a half pay for days worked over eight hours or weeks worked over 40 hours.
Labor Day 2012 Events In and Around Atlanta
The Decatur Book Festival. This year’s annual event brings together more than 300 authors for readings, autograph signings and more. Activities include a book market and street fair, children and teen activities, cooking authors and demonstrations, special talks and performances, plus food, beer and wine. The Decatur Book Festival takes place from Aug. 31-Sept. 2. It’s free for all and open to the public.
Dragon*Con. This annual event in downtown Atlanta celebrates everything science fiction and fantasy. In fact, it’s the largest multi-media, pop culture convention in the United States. It takes place from August 31-September 2 and is packed with events, including a parade, autograph sessions, workshops, wacky costumes and so much more. Even if you’re not a huge science fiction fan, the parade on Saturday is worth checking out. It kicks off at 10 a.m. on Peachtree Street and is free and open to the public.
Labor Day at Stone Mountain Park. “The Rock” celebrates Labor Day 2012 in a big way with a special fireworks display on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. Right after the patriotic lasershow, the night sky will light up with an impressive display of fireworks and lasers, all timed perfectly to music. The lasershow itself utilizes state-of-the-art digital graphics and awe-inspiring effects, all played out on one of the world’s largest screens, the face of Stone Mountain. The Labor Day lasershow and fireworks display is free with a $10 vehicle entry price. Bring your chairs and blankets and settle in for an amazing display.
Hot Air Balloon Festival at Callaway Gardens. 2012 marks the 14th year of this annual and extraordinary event. Activities include a Friday night balloon glow, tethered balloon rides, balloon flights, a classic car show, live music, and for the first time, a second balloon glow on Sunday night and a dramatic pyrotechnic skydiving demonstration by the U.S. Army Silver Wings. For admission prices, the Labor Day weekend schedule and family packages, visit callawaygardens.com.
Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games. In 2012, the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is double the action with North Carolina State taking on Tennessee on Friday and Auburn taking on Clemson on Saturday in the Georgia Dome. Weekend activities include a Fan Night at Georgia Aquarium, fan zones with autograph sessions, interactive games, official team walks and pep rallies.
Nascar AdvoCare 500. Start your engines. The action-packed, adrenaline-pumping Nascar AdvoCare 500 takes place this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Qualifying and practice runs take place on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 31-Sept. 1. On Sunday, Montgomery Gentry plays in the Fast Cars & Guitars pre-race concert. At 7:30, the checkered flag goes down and engines roar to life for the exciting race under the lights. For more information, visit the official race website.