Labor Day weekend welcomes last hurrah of summer

sbirkenmeyer@vagazette.com

The three-day Labor Day weekend signifies the end of summer and one last opportunity for families to get out of the house before school starts. But it also tends to be a fairly quiet weekend as fall’s responsibilities loom near.

Georjeane Blumling, AAA Tidewater’s vice president of public affairs, said Labor Day weekend is an opportunity to visit local destinations.

“It tends to be a family activities weekend, not one for a quick trip to Disney World,” she said.

With school starting immediately afterward, many families opt for nearby destinations such as the beach or Busch Gardens instead of long road trips. Those who are planning vacations should make sure they’re prepared for the journey.

“We always recommend people prepare themselves and their vehicles,” Blumling said. That includes a maintenance check to ensure tires, fluid levels, windshield wipers and such are up to par. She also recommends against driving for many hours immediately after working all day. And, as always, buckle up.

The weather is also a variable to consider. For now, Blumling isn’t worried about significant rainfall this weekend as the area enters into a generally temperate time of year.

“Our weather is still pretty mild,” she said.

The National Weather Service predicts area temperatures in the 70s on Saturday and heating up into the 80s Sunday and Monday.

“It looks like we’ll probably have a chance for some showers on Saturday, and then Sunday into Monday looks to be at least partly sunny skies,” said Bill Sammler of the National Weather Service.

Gas prices may also be a concern, particularly as tropical storm Harvey continues to blast Texas and its refineries throughout the week.

“At this point, we are seeing some uptick, but nothing dramatic,” Blumling said.

She said it’s too early to tell how great the impact will be, as it’s dependent on damage and how long it takes affected refineries to recover.

“Right now, they’re still assessing what’s going on at the refineries,” she said, adding they prepared ahead of time, so that should minimize ill effects.

It could take up to 10 days before any impacts make their way here. She estimated that 4-6 percent of the nation’s gas comes from that area, but luckily the country also has a good reserve right now.

“It’s probably a good idea not to let it get low, because there’s no telling when it’s going to go up,” Blumling said.

Virginia currently ranks seventh in the nation for cheapest gas; the state’s average price was at $2.15 per gallon as of Monday, according to AAA.

The sunset on a slow summer

Locally, the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance does not expect an influx of tourists.

“Labor Day is not traditionally a huge weekend for us,” said Karen Riordan, the chamber’s president and CEO, who pointed to a modest programming selection and families preparing for back-to-school as part of the reason for this. “Hopefully we’ll be steady.”

The low-key Labor Day weekend comes on the heels of a slower than expected summer. Riordan said concrete data won’t be available until after Labor Day, but she said the numbers are anecdotally “disappointing.”

Riordan said July is usually a bustling month, but after Independence Day, an unexpected drop in attendance occurred with a slight rebound in August. She said the heat, including many days at or around 100 degrees, turned off people who were then more inclined to go to Virginia Beach or the Outer Banks. She said the economy may have also been a factor.

“Overall, it’s been kind of an antsy summer,” she said, adding they’ve seen good marketing metrics, but those were not reflected in turnout to area hotels, restaurants and other tourist locations. “We’ve actually had some good marketing metrics with campaigns, but not seeing it in turnout. We’ll continue to look at that and starting to analyze what we can do to counter that.”

Now, attention turns toward rebounding throughout the rest of the year.

“People have always thought of summer as the season, and it’s very, very important, but the fall and Christmas have been really good the last two or three years,” Riordan said, pointing to events such as Busch Garden’s Howl-O-Scream, Colonial Williamsburg’s Haunting on Dog Street and Williamsburg Fall Arts as major attractions. “This is not the time to take the foot off the gas pedal.”

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

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