Environmental Leadership Center
Warren Wilson College
Campus Box 6323
P.O. Box 9000
Asheville, NC 28815-9000
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By Arayah Larson
If Labor Day was a holiday for you, you probably went shopping, went to a movie or enjoyed sleeping in. It was a much-needed day, a smooth transition from the relaxed summer to the busy fall. For school students, Labor day is the last barbeque of the year, when the pool begins to get a little too cold. We have grown accustomed to thinking of the day casually. Wondering at what meaning the day might carry today, I headed to the Hendersonville Apple Festival and talked to a few people about the day’s significance and heard some interesting answers.
Jack Ruff, a 69 year old marketing specialist with a big smile and a kindly storytelling ability, is one man who still believes in Labor Day as a day to remember workers. We take a day to reflect on the work we do. He says “as long as it’s honest, you do anything. If you’re a janitor you be the best janitor you can be.” He ought to know. Ruff grew up on a farm and says he’s no stranger to early morning manual labor. But now, he does something he loves and looks forward to every day.
To some, Labor Day literally means labor. Staff Sergeant Tracy Cox works for the Hendersonville Police and on Labor Day Weekend, with Hendersonville’s famous Apple Festival and the Labor Day Parade, Cox works over 30 hours in one weekend, as well as Monday. Sitting in a trailer carefully watching the crowds of the festival, Cox said Labor Day never had much meaning to him anyway.
B.J. Briley, a 65 year old woman with more energy than most 20 year olds, remembers hard hours. She used to work in law enforcement, sells real estate now, and insists she was never part of a union. That’s why Labor Day has a mixed meaning for her. While manning the Republican Party booth she explained to me that “Labor is a good thing, but today there are too many people not working, people who get their incomes from the government.” She adds that Labor Day should be a day to celebrate “working hard and achieving what you possess.”
My last stop was at the League of Women Voters booth, where I talked with two women volunteering their time to register voters and educate about immigration. The women, who laughing when I asked their ages, said Labor Day has lost a lot of its meaning for them, but they think its important to take any day to think about what you’re doing for your community. Natalie Zitnick adds she “wishes more people were laboring”. She says she doesn’t know “if people understand it, or if they only think of it as a day off.” In the end, ZItnick says thoughtfully, Labor Day is “a celebration of people who get things done.” And that’s as American as apple pie.