MORRIS – Jetting down the Illinois River, soaking up the sunshine and eating homemade barbecue is how the Valderrama and Chaidez families of Morris spent their Monday holiday.
The families were able to spend most of Labor Day outside, enjoying Stratton Park, because thankfully, they had the day off.
“Most of the family got [Labor Day] off. That’s very rare for us, too,” Jose Chaidez said. “We try to do something for it, whenever we can get family together.”
Exactly 120 years ago, lawmakers carved a national holiday out of the first Monday of September as a way to honor the achievements of American workers. But today, Labor Day is better known and celebrated as the unofficial last day of summer.
Although designated as a national holiday, many workers in the U.S. still spent their Labor Day working.
In downtown Morris, Sweet Tooth candy and ice cream shop was one of the lone local businesses that kept its doors open on the worker holiday.
“I know the kids are out of school and a lot of people like to come down and enjoy ice cream when they go down to the bike path and down by the river. If they don’t have anything, it’s kind of a bummer for them,” said Sweet Tooth owner Donna Ramirez.
Ramirez said she always stays open on Labor Day, partially because other businesses downtown are not and people need somewhere to go.
“I have a lot of people tell me that when I am open on days like this, ‘You’re a savior. You’re the only one open. We needed something to drink. We’re so happy you are here,’ ” Ramirez said.
Ramirez said she does close a few hours early on Labor Day to allow for some relaxation time.
New Lenox resident Cindy Powers came to Morris with her family to enjoy a kayak trip on the river, and said she wished every one could enjoy a the holiday without being obligated to work.
“Like all holidays lately, it becomes all about shopping and buying things. People who have families and have these jobs where they have to work on holidays should be able to stay home and enjoy some family time,” Powers said.
At Chapin Park, local mom Sarah Stainis said spending time with her kids is the most important part of Labor Day, as most other holidays.
“It’s important to have it off. It’s about spending time with family,” she said.