On Labor Day, Long Islanders mark family traditions, summer season's end

Jones Beach State Park Life Guard Maggie Johns

Jones Beach State Park Life Guard Maggie Johns of Seaford blows the whistle to pull swimmers out of the water for the last time Sept. 1, 2014 as the sun sets on this years Labor day weekend closing the season. (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

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For a family that hails from Azerbaijan -- north of Iran on the Caspian Sea -- Labor Day at Hempstead Lake State Park is a time and place to mark their heritage.

"This is the tradition," said Anna Abramova, 26, of Brooklyn, who was with more than a dozen relatives Monday at the West Hempstead park. Beef and chicken kebabs sizzled on a grill, and a tea kettle more than a century old stood tall. "We make a picnic, and we show the new generation how it's done."

On this hot, sunny Monday, Long Island's parks and beaches were flooded with visitors practicing traditions, old and new, and savoring the last moments until the unofficial end of summer.

The season was fleeting, and everyone took notice.

David Zapata, 40, of Babylon Village came to Oak Beach Park in Babylon Town with fishing rods and crabbing gear in tow.

It had been years since he went fishing, he said, and he bought the equipment just a few weeks ago. Monday, he brought his young daughters and wife to the pier.

"It's relaxing to get away from the everyday lifestyle," said Zapata, a technician who fixes microscopes. "Schools, running to dance classes, soccer games." His reel bent under the weight of something, but he had no catch -- at least not at that moment.

Several motorcycles were parked in the beach's lot. It's a meeting spot for local riders, and Mark Lagnese, 53, of East Patchogue, who was chatting with them.

Discouraged by a weather report predicting scattered rain, riders regrouped Monday morning.

"We changed our plans to have our barbecue later in the day and said let's get on the bikes and ride," Lagnese said.

Lauren Nash, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Upton bureau, said the high shortly after 4 p.m. at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma was 84, besting the 78-degree average for Sept. 1.

A humid day with sunny skies might have accounted for why people went to the beach to cool off, Nash said.

Parks officials, given the iffy forecasts, had expected less than 10,000 Labor Day visitors to Robert Moses and Jones Beach state parks. But George Gorman Jr., the regional state parks director, said about 74,000 people were projected to have gone.

"When the sun came out and the humidity skyrocketed, we started to see a lot of people visiting the beaches," he said.

At Jones Beach, the Riveras of Queens brought daughter Isabella, 16 months, for her first trip.

"We just need a break before the summer's over," said Denise Rivera, 41, a licensing director for the Cartoon Network.

"Hopefully, she'll take a nap," said father Danny Rivera, 37.

As the afternoon waned, the motorcycle riders at Oak Beach Park began to leave. Lagnese was off to another barbecue, and he even confessed to a bit of relief.

"I'm tired of potato salad, macaroni salad and coleslaw," he said. "I'm summered out."

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