Aurelia Dubon, a high school Spanish teacher, considered the bleakness of Labor Day even as she entered Field 6 of Jones Beach to enjoy the perfect summer weather.
On this holiday, the unofficial end of the season, thousands flocked to Long Island's parks and beaches amid sunny skies and temperatures in the high 80s with a cooling breeze. But many grew wistful like Dubon, recalling last winter's severe conditions. The recent summer heat waves could not vanquish memories of massive snow drifts and ice storms.
"I hate winter," said Dubon, 54 of Sunnyside, Queens, who is headed back to her Bronx classroom this week.
Dubon was one of roughly 250,000 visitors who packed Robert Moses and Jones Beach state parks over the three-day Labor Day weekend, said George Gorman, the deputy regional director for New York State parks.
"It was a great weekend," he said. "People came out to get their last grasps of summer."
At Jones Beach, crowds arrived with tropical-colored umbrellas and reclined by the waves. Joggers worked up sweats along the boardwalk.
Parks on the North Shore were busy, too. At Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park, families grilled corn on the cob, sausages and burgers.
At Steppingstone Park in Kings Point, there were picnics, too, and kids ran through a water spray. The park is off the Long Island Sound and overlooks Stepping Stones Light, a historic lighthouse, and the Throgs Neck Bridge.
Irene Raices of Great Neck was at a picnic table at Steppingstone, working on her laptop computer. Raices, 62, is a graphic artist and has worked from the park several days a week each summer.
"I'll miss swimming; I'll miss the beach," said Raices, who said her children grew up playing at Steppingstone, which is adjacent to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Throughout the summer, her family gathers there for picnics.
Still, many shrugged off the idea that Labor Day signals the end of summer. They took it as more of a suggestion.
"It's a beautiful day and it'll be another beautiful day tomorrow," said Kingsley Liu, 40, part of a group of picnickers.
Raices said she'll be at the park through November.
And Kevin Sun, 37 of Great Neck, part of the same picnic group, said while "the weather is cooling, it's still nice."
Sun and Liu were with their respective families feasting over traditional Chinese dishes including fried dumplings and spicy noodles and other picnic fare like watermelon and macaroni and cheese.
Labor Day is also a last hurrah for young parents before they are plunged into back-to-school routines. Some beachgoers said their children start pre-K this week and are bracing for fast-paced changes.
Liu, a stay-at-home dad, said his 4-year-old daughter begins school this week.
"As a parent, we are ready for that," said Liu. He acknowledged that the transition could be "emotional" for all involved.
Also starting pre-K this week is Valeria Gomez, 4, of Maspeth, Queens, who was with her parents at Field 6 at Jones Beach. Her mother, Sandra Garcia, said she expects the summer of trips to water parks and beaches will devolve into the chaos of a very busy school year. "After this, work and school," said Gomez, who works for a cosmetics company with her husband.
"Today is just a beautiful summer day," said Dubon, who teaches at the Leadership Institute in the Bronx. She said she was eager for a "getaway day; a shut down day to clear the mind."