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Picnics, concerts, an arts fest and parade are a respite for the work-weary.

For many people in the South Bay, the Labor Day weekend will mean little more than the end of summer and an array of activities ranging from a giant arts and crafts festival in Hermosa Beach to a Samoan ethnic celebration in Carson.

But the true meaning of Labor Day--first observed in 1882 to recognize labor’s contribution to America--will not be entirely lost as members of more than 20 unions march down Avalon Boulevard in a revival of the Wilmington Labor Day Parade.

“Parades aren’t common anymore, but they’re starting back up again because of the times,” said Steve Deering, secretary-treasurer of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 906, one of the unions putting on the parade.

Wilmington hasn’t had a Labor Day parade for three years. But Deering said union members decided to march again this year because of organized labor concerns nationwide--among them fights for health benefits and opposition to permanent replacements for striking workers.

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“We have to stand together or we’ll get divided,” Deering said.

The parade, which begins at 10 a.m. Monday at E Street and Broad Avenue, is open to anyone who wants to march. Union groups will carry banners and marching bands will set the cadence. The parade ends with a Banning Park rally, which will include labor songs and speakers.

In Hermosa Beach, there will be too much human congestion for parading as an expected 100,000 people throng the streets near the city pier for the three-day Fiesta de las Artes that has enlivened the Labor Day weekend for more than a decade.

It gets under way Saturday with more than 400 arts and craft booths, international food and entertainment that includes jazz, Afro-Caribbean rhythms, belly dancing and Cajun sounds.

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The free fiesta, which is centered at Pier and Hermosa avenues, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. all three days. There is free parking and shuttle service from the Mira Costa High School parking lot, at Artesia Boulevard and Peck Avenue.

Gold and silver jewelry, ceramics, leather work, handblown glass, oil paintings and watercolors will be offered by artists from throughout the United States.

This year’s fiesta also includes an appearance by Rodney Reptile, a T-shirt critter inspired by an iguana that lived in the window of a onetime Hermosa Beach reptile store.

Rodney’s various adventures--he’s a lifeguard and drives a Cadillac convertible--are recounted on a cartoon T-shirt that Rodney’s creator, Annie Russell-Moler, will offer at her booth. “He’s like a kid to me,” she said.

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With a talent show, cooking demonstrations and Polynesian dancing and singing, Carson’s Samoan community will celebrate its heritage on Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Scott Park, 23410 Catskill Ave.

“This takes over the entire park,” said park director James Foisia. “There’s a softball tournament on the ball field and in the other half of the park different red and white booths with novelty items and food and an outdoor stage.”

The afternoon includes family picnicking and partaking of pig that will be cooked on heated rocks in a covered pit as a demonstration of umu, a Samoan cooking method. Various community organizations will raise money by selling clothing and jewelry, as well as barbecue and Samoan delicacies.

Foisia said the heritage day was started two years ago to spotlight and preserve Samoan culture in Carson, which has the largest Samoan population on the U.S. mainland.

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“We try to keep our cultural roots alive with the younger children so that they don’t lose touch with our heritage,” he said, adding that an essay contest held in conjunction with the event has drawn more than 100 entries.

If Polynesian music will be in the air in Carson, it will be classic jazz pulsating through two LAX-area hotels during the four-day Los Angeles Classic Jazz Festival. Starting today there will be music and dancing daily from 10:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. at the Marriott, 5855 W. Century Blvd., and the Hilton, 5711 W. Century Blvd.

The festival features 225 performers from the United States and Europe in an assortment of jazz, swing, big band, blues and ragtime reaching back to the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s. There will be a special tribute to trumpeter Yank Lawson--an original member of the Bob Crosby orchestra--on his 80th birthday.

Festival director Wally Holmes said that, in its time, classic jazz was the “fresh and vital music that no one had heard before. The musicians were looked upon as rebels and sex symbols.”

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The music has never lost its appeal to older people, and Holmes said today’s “25 to 40 yuppies” like its novelty. “To them, this music is brand new,” he said.

Admission to all festival events is $60, and the cost is less for individual days.

On the Palos Verdes Peninsula, the South Coast Botanic Garden--located at 26300 Crenshaw Blvd.--offers free picnicking and music on Monday from 4 p.m. to dusk. The Palos Verdes Symphonic Band will play marches and show tunes, and garden volunteer Jim North will perform country-flavored tunes on his guitar.

The Labor Day picnic and concert, which draws an audience from Long Beach to Hermosa Beach, was started several years ago to thank the community for supporting the garden.

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“People bring picnic baskets and blankets and can peruse the garden, enjoy seeing the lovely flowers, have their picnic dinner and hear the lovely music in a nice atmosphere,” said Norma Cantafio, executive director of the garden’s support group.


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