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Goodbye, summer


The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va.  — Sunlight shone on the goldenrod along the road to Lake Stephens and on the hillside at New River Park Monday. In Beckley, ceramic pumpkins and chrysanthemums dotted entrances to local stores.

(Register-Herald photo)

Labor Day 2017, the last day of “official” summer this year, fizzled at Stephens Lake and New River Pool with sparser crowds — unlike a typical year, when people gather poolside and on the beach to soak up the last bit of sunshine and to order enough concession food to last until Memorial Day.

“Today is slow,” said Sharon Dempsey, manager of New River Pool. “It’s real unusual. It’s just slow, and now, there’s nobody in the park.”

She theorized that higher gas prices had possibly kept families at home.

Dempsey said the pool stayed busy most of the summer, even though a new schedule kept it open just on weekends.

“Being open only three days, we were still just as busy,” she said. “We did really well. The concessions did real well. They buy until they can’t buy anymore.”

Only a few of the picnic tables at Lake Stephens were in use at the top of the beach hill section. Two or three children played on the Splash Pad, an area that is typically filled by a young crowd, while teen employees lounged on picnic tables as they oversaw the nearly deserted water playground.

Down at the lake, a few families dotted the nearly deserted stretch of sandy beach at around 3 p.m. A trio of ducks swam in the water, as a lone powerboat churned up waves.

Andy McGhee, co-owner of A&J Concessions, said the season at Lake Stephens had been a good one for business, with A&J — the contracted business that operates the concession stand — selling many fresh-cooked favorites like loaded french fries, fish-n-chips, hotdogs, corn dogs, taco salads and other crowd-pleasers.

McGhee and his wife live at nearby Surveyor and spent the summer making the short drive to the Lake Stephens concession stand to serve the crowds. As the A&J team prepared to close the stand for the last time this year, McGhee said they would be offering their food — prepared to order at customers’ requests — to businesses, wedding parties, private parties, funerals and other places.

“We’re not just limited to a menu,” he said. “We can’t fit everything on one piece of paper.”

At New River Park, Dempsey was counting down the hours until she would lock the doors to human visitors for the last time in 2017.

“Glad it’s at an end, kind of,” said Dempsey, laughing.

She admitted that each spring, she looks forward to Memorial Day, when the pool opens.

“Come August, you’re ready for it to shut down,” she said. “And, then, I’m sad to see it end, because you know winter’s around the corner. It’s mixed emotions.”

She added that the the pool will host the Raleigh County Humane Society Puppy Swim this evening.

On social media, local residents shared how they were spending Labor Day.

Roy Long of Oak Hill said Monday afternoon that he was working his second job as summer 2017 faded.

“(I’d) rather not, to be honest,” he added.

Rachel Hamilton of Oak Hill said she hates when summer ends. Hamilton’s favorite season inspired her names for two of her children.

“Summer is my favorite season, and that’s how (daughter) Summer Treadway got her name,” she said. “River (her son) got his because I love the river.”

Lori Bostic of Raleigh County said summer is also her favorite season, when she can “spend awesome time with family.”

The passing of summer is sad, she added, but she remains optimistic about the seasons in front of her.

“I have learned to enjoy doing different things during different seasons,” Bostic said. “Like looking at the leaves change and sledding in the snow.”

Sharon Bibb of Minden was anticipating the return of her favorite season since childhood.

“I love the stillness of autumn, knowing that something is about to change,” she said. “The view of nature we have had all summer long is shortly going to disappear, and the burst of color on the tree line will show its splendor once again.

“Welcome back, Autumn. Good to see you again.”

For the past 18 months, Janeen Rose of Shady Spring said that recent situations in her own life have taught her to enjoy every moment.

“Society puts too much emphasis on seasons as a whole,” she said, “myself included, as spending the summer on the lake with family was a top priority for years.

“I have now learned that if playing in Chuck E Cheese with your husband is one of your few options … then I will take it, no matter what season it is.

“Don’t ever take anyone or anything for granted, and remember those who are celebrating or changing a season alone.”

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