Labor Day weekend is a time for families to relax and reconnect. Birthdays are an added reason to celebrate during the three-day weekend.
Dana Whitehead’s family threw her a belated 4th birthday party at Erwin’s Fishery Park Saturday evening. The princess-themed picnic had purple and pink decorations and the birthday girl ran around the playground wearing her tiara. Taking time to recognize the young Tazewell, Va., native’s birthday was top priority for her great aunt Janie Bailey.
“It’s late, her birthday was on Aug. 14, but we weren’t going to let it slip by without celebrating,” she said.
Whitehead and her cousins smiled as she blew out the four candles on her cake. Bailey is also planning to take some of the younger girls in her family to Wetlands Water Park on Monday.
“Remembering family and being with family, that’s what it’s all about,” said Bailey, of Johnson City. She’ll drive out to her grandfather’s hometown of Buladean, N.C. today to pay respects to deceased family members. The family decoration is part of a tradition that consisting of placing flowers on graves, having dinner and remembering the lives of lost loved ones.
The celebration of a milestone birthday was taking place just a few picnic tables down from the princess party. Kathleen Phillip and her family shared a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken in honor of her 80th year of life.
“We usually cook, but we did it the easy way today because of the weather,” said Phillip’s daughter Connie Riddle. “We usually cook a lot—hamburgers, hotdogs or ribs. We get together during any holiday.”
The late afternoon thunderstorms almost ended Judy Lyons’ plans for the second holiday in a row. She and about 30 family members decided to gather for a cookout under a shelter at the Laurels Recreation Area in Unicoi.
“Am I going to have to take all these people back to my house?” she said with a laugh as a thunder clap echoed through the surrounding trees.
When Lyons and her family came to the Laurels on Independence Day, they had to hold an umbrella over the grill to keep the fire from burning out. Once the burgers were cooked, Lyons said they went home. In the end, it’s worth all the trouble to wait out the storm, at least in the name of family togetherness.
“The fun part is just getting to see family and spend time with them,” she said. “Normally, we don’t get to spend a whole lot of time together unless it’s a holiday.”
And as the thunder subsided, cars full of Lyons’ kinfolk rolled into the parking lot, many of them looking to play with three-month-old Cole Brewer. Lyons seemed pleased to see the break in the weather and started laying hamburger patties on the hot grill.
“We’ve done this for years,” she said. “Ever since I was a young girl, my parents brought me up here for picnics. Then, after I got married and had children we all just came up here. It’s just God’s creation, nature, and it’s good to get out.”