RAGLAND — Hundreds of people crammed the Ten Island Historic Park on the west side of the Neely Henry Dam on Labor Day to say goodbye to the summer of 2020.
Smoke from numerous barbecue grills swirled in the warm September breeze adding a carnival-like atmosphere as revelers marked the symbolic end to the vacation season. The park includes a beach, an observation deck, pavilions, picnic tables, fishing areas, boat docks and a boat ramp, all of which were filled to capacity.
Mike Jones, one of the attendants at the park, said that Labor Day is the last big blowout of the year for the park that’s located across the dam from Ohatchee.
“We have a large crowd and everybody’s having fun,” said Jones.
“We want people to come out and enjoy this place, a lot of people don’t know about it,” said Jones.
Jones said the park is a family oriented place and the rules are simple.
“No alcohol, no pets — the dogs for the handicap are welcome — no firearms, no glass containers, no camping and no loud music,” said Jones.
“We have cooking everywhere, we have boaters, we have kayakers, we have people on tubes and the main thing is the park is absolutely free,” said Jones.
The crowd included more than 100 people from Tri-County outreach, a rehabilitation center in Anniston. In that group, Codi Moore and Gene Peoples were seen hauling watermelons on their shoulders to share with their friends at a large pavilion.
“I’m being sober and making a good day out of it, having a good time, we’re having hot dogs and watermelons,” said Peoples.
The buzz of personal watercraft, pontoon boats, bass boats and other vessels hung in the air as Brent Griffin, from Piedmont, tended to a large smoker filled with hot dogs.
“Labor Day pays respect to the men and women who built this great country of ours,” Griffin said with a smile, squinting through the smoke.
Mickey Bevel, who was with the group from Tri-County, said Labor Day is a day off from work.
“I’m hungry right now, there’s beautiful weather, a great day for a cookout, a great day to spend with friends, God is good,” said Bevel.
Bevel said the outreach program is an opportunity for people to put their lives back together.
Dontrez “Rock” Pearson from Anniston was basking in the sun enjoying the upbeat nature of the gathering.
“This is family enjoyment time. I’m here enjoying the view with my good buddies out here from Tri-County and get my life together,” said Pearson.
Elizabeth Acton, who was not with the Tri-County group, said she was at the park to have fun on Labor Day with her friend Alice.
The two were listening to Nirvana as they tended to a charcoal grill cooking hot dogs and hamburgers.
“Labor Day means we get a day off from work, our company appreciates us enough to let us take a day off to spend time with our family and friends,” said Acton.
An ice cream truck pulled into the parking lot offering flavored shaved ice. Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” played over the truck’s sound system as a small crowd gathered to purchase colorful frozen treats.
At a fishing pier behind the hustle and bustle of the beach area John Kobos from Anniston was seeing what was biting. A mechanic by trade, Kobos said he caught a catfish earlier but was just enjoying being outside on Labor Day.
“Labor Day is pretty much just another day, I just don’t have to work it,” said Kobos.
Lacey Campbell from Anniston was sunbathing with her cousin Alana Hutton on the beach area of the park which resembled a peninsula surrounded by the dark blue waters of the Coosa River.
Campbell said getting out is just what people need right now due to the pandemic.
“This is the best thing to do as you can see, there’s a bunch of people here enjoying swimming ... it’s lovely weather too,” said Cambell.