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Labor Day Weekend in San Diego: Grape Stomps, Cannon Battles, SeaWorld & More

San Diego Symphony Summer Pops

San Diego Symphony Summer Pops

  • San Diego Symphony Summer Pops
  • Labor Day Pool Party at Andaz Hotel
  • Festival of Sail
  • Vintage Trolley Ride
  • Julian Grape Stomp Festival
  • Hawaiian Plumeria Festival
  • SeaWorld's Summer Nights
  • Labor Day Block Party at House of Blues
  • Barona Powwow
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As is the case with just about any holiday on the calendar, Labor Day has been transformed into a three-day celebration, usually highlighted by nightlife, shopping or trips to the beach. That wasn't exactly the idea when the first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City on September 5, 1882. Under the auspices of the Central Labor Union, the day was meant as a nod to the average, everyday working stiff.

There is some debate over who hatched Labor Day. Some records credit Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, with doing so. It goes that McGuire sought to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.''

Not so fast. There is heavy evidence that a machinist named Matthew Maguire is the man behind Labor Day. Maguire, who would become the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, NJ, is said to have proposed the day in 1882. Since Maguire was secretary of the Central Labor Union, it would seem likely that he is the correct choice.

Nevertheless, the popularity of Labor Day spread throughout the country, to the point where Congress passed an act making the first Monday of each September a legal holiday on June 28, 1894. Fast forward to 2011. During the course of the weekend there is action aplenty throughout San Diego County for folks to celebrate Labor Day in their own way. Here is a list of some of the San Diego highlights:

Julian Grape Stomp Festival
Menghini Winery, 1150 Julian Orchards Dr, Julian
Sept 3, 11 am-7 pm
Expend some energy by getting into a barrel and smashing some grapes in this annual Italian-themed event. Two barrels are available --- one for adults, the other for kids. Music, dancing bocce ball competitions, wine tastings, crafts and food are also on the menu. $10 (21 and over, includes commemorative wine glass); $5 (ages 6-20); 5 and under free. 

Hawaiian Plumeria Festival
Casa del Prado
room 102 Balboa Park
Sept. 4, 10 am-4 pm
Hundreds of Plumeria flowers will be on display, and attendants will be on hand to answer questions. There will also be Hawaiian music, a raffle and books for sale. Free

Barona Powwow
Barona Indian Reservation
1095 Barona Rd., Lakeside
Sept. 4 and 5, starting at 1 pm each day
The 41st rendition of this Tribal event is expected to draw some 10,000 celebrants from across the country. More than 200 dancers will compete for $60,000 in cash prizes. Free. 619-443-6612

Vintage Trolley Ride
12th and Imperial Transit Station
Sept 3 (10 am- 2 pm); Sept 4-5 (9 am-noon)
Enjoy a blast from the past and ride a restored 1946 vintage trolley . Get on board at the 12th and Imperial Transit Station, across from Petco Park. Departures are every 30 minutes on the hour and half-hour. $2 (adult fare, 6 years old and up); $1 seniors/disabled/Medicare; children 5 or younger free with paying adult.

Festival of Sail
1492 North Harbor Drive, San Diego
Sept 2-5
Hosted by the Maritime Museum of San Diego, San Diego Bay will be transformed into a theme park on water. More than 20 tall ships and other vessel from around the globe will show up. The cannon battles are fare, so don't get unnerved. Plus, there will be music and other entertainment. www.sdmaritime.org for ticket information and schedules.

SeaWorld's Summer Nights
500 Sea World Dr, Sept. 3-5
SeaWorld gives itself a makeover of sorts with extended hours and seasonal nighttime-only shows. "Shamu Rocks" highlights the after dark affair. Sea lions Clyde and Seamore at "Sea Lions" tonight are sure to be a hit with guests, as will Cirque de la Mare, an acrobatic showcase. 800-25-SHAMU. Price included with general admission ticket.

Labor Day Block Party
House of Blues
1055 5th Ave., downtown
Sept. 4, 9 pm-1:45 am
Join your fellow super-cool cats for a soiree that boasts three rooms of DJs spinning a variety of music, and dance performances. Plenty of libations will be available. $10-20. 619-299-2583

Labor Day Pool Party
The Ivy, Andaz Hotel
600 F Street 
Sept 4, 12pm+
Celebrate six stories high on the Ivy Rooftop at the Andaz Hotel.

San Diego Symphony Summer Pops
Embarcadero Marina Park South
Sept. 2-4, 7:30 pm
If Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture doesn't give you enough jolts, the fireworks and cannon blasts that are also part of the fare should do the trick. $17-76