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Your guide to the best Labor Day ever

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Posted: Friday, August 24, 2012 8:53 am

The last three-day weekend of the summer is approaching. Will it be hot? Probably. Will it be boring? Definitely not. Here are ways to celebrate this federal holiday at your pace, from hot air balloon rides to days on the beach.

For the person who wants to get up and go

Fire it up: Hot Air Balloon Festival 2012 in Ripon

Not far from Lodi, you can see the sky fill with dozens of hot air balloons that will take flight this Labor Day weekend.  The Color the Skies festival includes a pancake breakfast, vendor booths, hot air balloon inflation and launch, a one-mile and 5K runs, a clown show and performance by Zappo the musician.

When: Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 1 and 2, from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where:  Jack Tone and River roads in Ripon.

The cause: To raise awareness and financial support for Children’s Hospital Central California.


Pixie Time: Last chance to experience the enchanted forest in Stockton

You’ve been meaning to take the children to Pixie Woods all summer, but have yet to do it. What better time to go than a day off? Pixie Woods is only open until the end of September, and Labor Day weekend is one of the few times the park is open on a Monday.

The enchanted forest is a Stockton landmark, with boat and train rides, carousels, play structures and a water dragon for children.

The park was opened in 1954, and still has the same historic charm , with modern additions.

Outside food is not allowed, but Pixie Woods has a snack shack visitors are encouraged to visit.

When: Open all weekend and Monday, noon to 5 p.m.

Where: 2121 Monte Diablo Ave. in Stockton.

Go Greek: 48th Annual Greek Festival in Sacramento

Get your dancing shoes on. Get your sweet tooth ready. And enjoy a taste of culture at the 48th Annual Greek Festival sponsored by the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church of Sacramento.

This event is one of the most prominent heritage festivals in the area. It celebrates traditional foods, drinks, music and dancing of the Greek community.

Where: The Convention Center, 1400 J St.

Cost: $5 adults, $4 seniors 55 and over, children 0-12 are free. Admission is free Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Information:  916-443-2033.

Time travel: Sacramento Gold Rush Days in Old Sacramento

On Labor Day weekend, Old Town Sacramento will be transformed into Gold Rush territory. The streets will be covered with 200 tons of dirt. Bluegrass pickers will sing their woes. People of the 1850s will celebrate the days of gold and glory, when California was brand-spankin’ new.

Hundreds of costumed performers will take on roles of celebrities to bring history to life. Old Sacramento already has that historic charm with its 28 acres of buildings constructed in the early 1800s.

Admission is free, so bring the family to play along.

Where: Old Sacramento.

When: Aug. 31 through Sept. 3.

Festivities: Embarcadero Tent City, Pony Express Rides, gun fights and gatherings, parades, live music and food.


Get out of town for three whole days

With the kids in football and summer coming to an end, Labor Day weekend may be your last opportunity to get out of Lodi. Think: Ocean breezes, mountain air, summery cocktails and pure relaxations. Here are a couple of ideas.

Camping on the Sonoma Coast

Whether you want to load up the RV or pack a tent, there are places to “rough it” — to which degree depends on you — around Dillon Beach and Bodega Bay.

Lawson’s Landing is a fishing resort with grassy camping spots situated between sand dunes and the sea. It fills up fast on weekends and holidays, so you might want to make reservations or send Grandpa Joe or Uncle Howard to reserve your space in the middle of the week.

Doran Beach in Bodega Bay also offers tent and RV camping along the coast. The campgrounds offer beautiful views and sunsets, and enough privacy from neighboring campers.

For information on these spots, visit or

Take it easy: Stay at a B&B in Napa

Aren’t the camping type? Prefer wine over campfire stew?

Escaping to Napa for a few days might be more your speed.

Bed and breakfasts are usually quaint, fun and offer a personalized experience. Here are some popular B&Bs in Napa: Hennessey House, Churchill Manor, Old World Inn and Candlelight Inn.

Celebrate the end of summer with freshness

Drinking at the berry bush:

What you need:

1⁄4 pound fresh blackberries

1 ounce agave nectar

1 ounce water

1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice

2-3 ounces of your favorite tequila

What you do:

Puree the blackberries with the agave nectar, water and lime juice. Add puree to tequila and shake until it’s all combined. Pour in a glass over ice.

Eat up the garden ’maters:

Lodi heirloom tomato grower Mia Brown shares one of her favorite recipes: Panzanella (Italian bread salad)

What you need:

6 cups cubed crusty French bread, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 large, fresh tomatoes, diced

1/2 sweet red onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium cucumber, skinned, seeded and diced

1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

Fresh basil leaves, minced

Olive oil

Red wine vinegar

Sea salt & fresh ground pepper Parmesan cheese, to taste.

What to do:

Combine all ingredients (except oil, vinegar, salt and pepper) in a large bowl and mix well. Drizzle olive oil over contents while stirring to very lightly coat ingredients, and then vinegar Salt and pepper. Shave or grate Parmesan cheese. Allow contents to rest about 30 minutes, softening the bread and blending flavors.



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