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Summer Saunters to a Close in Uneventful Final Hurrah : Holiday: Crowds behave. Traffic is sluggish in spots, but authorities say beach rescues and car wrecks are minimal.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Blake Mumaw, 12, dropped his line over the edge of the pier, then sat back, waiting perhaps half a minute before yanking it up again.

He confided that he’d probably already caught all the fish he was likely to this Labor Day holiday. Soon after he arrived at the beach early Monday, Blake said, he had snagged an eight-inch smelt and a baby bat ray, admiring them briefly before tossing them back into the waves.

“I’m here at the beach today and then I’m going to Disneyland tomorrow,” Blake announced, grinning broadly and shouldering his bright red fishing pole. “But then I’ve got to go back to school.”

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The Buena Park boy and thousands of others were marking the unofficial end of summer in an appropriately leisurely way, flocking to Orange County beaches to loll on the sand or play in the surf under a cloudless sky.

Officials throughout the county reported a calm holiday, with predictably sluggish traffic near the beaches and amusement parks, but few accidents and no other major problems.

“It’s been a nice, busy end-of-summer weekend,” Newport Beach Police Sgt. Mike McDonough said. “People just seem to be enjoying themselves.”

At beaches up and down Orange County, lifeguards said the warm weather drew sizable crowds. About 120,000 sought refuge from the heat at Newport Beach, with 90,000 at Huntington City Beach and 25,000 at Laguna, officials said.

Given the number of people who packed the sand, however, there were relatively few rescues. Several lifeguards said the small surf, which was below average at 1 to 3 feet, was probably responsible.

“We’ve been pretty fortunate,” Brian Napierala, dispatcher for the Newport Beach Marine Department, said at midafternoon. “The water’s warmed up but there’s not too much surf. We’ve only had about a dozen rescues so far, compared to the hundred or so we get sometimes when we get a good south swell.”

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The weather was near perfect, at least for those lucky enough to be at the beach. Temperatures along the coast reached the mid-70s, while the high in the county was 92 in Anaheim.

Forecasters said a slight cooling trend should set in by midweek, offering a break from the above-average temperatures of recent days. The area’s typical marine layer, absent for most of the last week, should begin to return by Wednesday, said Curtis Brack, a meteorologist with WeatherData, which provides forecasts for The Times.

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The weather was perfect for what may have been the county’s oddest bash: a sledgehammer-swinging affair in Newport Beach meant to bring the house down.

David and Laney Paine, who plan to demolish their house on Saint James Road to make room for a bigger place, dropped off bricks with a note inviting neighbors to take a few whacks at their home--a head start on the bulldozer scheduled to raze the house today.

“It’s just a different way of celebrating Labor Day,” said David Paine, who owns a public-relations firm. “We barbecued and beat the daylights out of the house.”

Others enjoying the sunshine and clear skies Monday engaged in more traditional summer pastimes such as Frisbee tossing, lotion applying, kite flying and audacious ogling.

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Many, such as restaurant worker John Valdivia, 21, said they just appreciated having an extra day off for the holiday and a chance to spend it at the beach.

“It’s pretty nice out here, you know,” Valdivia said as he watched his fishing line stretch down from the Huntington Beach pier. “I just want one big fish, just one.” And if he caught it, he added, he’d fry it in oil and garlic and share it with friends.

Charles and Charlotte Hawksford, meanwhile, sat quietly on a bench near the sand, a cool breeze ruffling their hair. They had taken the bus down from their Whittier home, Charles Hawksford, 77, said, adding that he has been coming to Huntington Beach for more than 70 years.

“The place has changed a lot,” he said, gazing across the crowded sand and out to the waves. “We didn’t used to have all the buildings they have now, and there weren’t so many people. But it’s still a lot cooler than it is in Whittier. That hasn’t changed at all.”

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