SALT LAKE CITY — The traditional end of summer has arrived with the three-day Labor Day weekend offering one last blast of summer for families to take advantage of Utah's recreation opportunities.
From water parks to town festivals, sheepdog trials to camping opportunities, the options are plentiful, even if you're starting the weekend without any plans.
Here then is your Labor Day weekend entertainment primer:
• Camping. Most sites are spoken for. But four of Utah's 32 state parks have sites remaining for campers: Otter Creek State Park, Sand Hollow State Park, Steinaker State Park and Starvation State Park; only primitive beach sites are available in the Starvation area. Information on reservations is available at stateparks.utah.gov.
• In Salt Lake City, Tracy Aviary is inviting families to come Saturday and appreciate "nature's ultimate recyclers" at its event for International Vulture Awareness Day.
• The Murray Acoustic Music Festival at the Murray Amphitheater is Monday.
• In Layton, the Ed Kenley Centennial Amphitheater welcomes Air Supply to its stage for a special engagement on Monday. Tickets can be purchased online through the Davis Arts Council website, at the box office or at the gate.
• Antelope Island's Stampede Festival offers a collection of family events Friday through Sunday. The stampede kicks off with a hot air balloon launch Friday morning at the Kaysville ponds and more balloons will launch from Antelope Island in the evenings, weather permitting. Visitors can look forward to kite flying and demonstrations, 5K and 12K trail races, pie eating contests, live music and more. Entry is $15 per carload and more information is available at antelopeislandstampede.com.
Kathi Dysert, marketing chair for the festival, said the weekend promises "something for everybody," with events planned for all age groups.
"It's a one-stop-shop and it's only $15," she said. "It's a beautiful venue for something like this.
Highlights this year include paragliders who will jump from Buffalo Point, oversized kites and a BMX bike giveaway.
• The Soldier Hollow Classic sheepdog show features competition, food, demonstrations and music Friday through Monday. Visitors can even bring their own canine friends for the splash-dog competition. Registration is available online at soldierhollowclassic.com.
• For families looking to get away, the Parade of Lights at Flaming Gorge is a unique Labor Day celebration. Boats decked in colorful lights will bring new meaning to the term "parade floats" as they cruise around State Line Cove for spectators. The area's fireworks ban has been temporarily lifted in deference to the traditional fireworks display, which will follow the parade.
Linda Farnsworth, who works at the Lucerne Marina in Manila, said the parade is a great event for families looking to camp for the weekend or to drive in from nearby communities. She and her husband have participated in past years.
"It's our biggest weekend of the year," she said. "We had 22 boats in the parade last year."
A limited number of campsites are still available on a walk-in basis, Farnsworth said.
• The Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City will close several of the 2012 season's shows this weekend, including "Mary Stuart," "Scapin," "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "Titus Andronicus" and "To Kill a Mockingbird." Tickets are available online at bard.org. Festival-goers will be able to catch extra showings of Stones in His Pockets, Hamlet and Les Miserables in October. A little farther south in Ivins, Tuacahn will continue its summer lineup this weekend of "Hairspray" and Disney's "Aladdin," which will run through October.
• Lovers of town fairs can check out Onion Days in Payson, Peach Days in Hurricane or Tomato Days in Hooper. Onion Days, held Friday through Monday, features a craft fair and carnival. Information: www.paysonutah.org/. Tomato Days in Hooper, featuring a farmer's market and athletic challenges, takes place Monday. Information: www.tomatodays.com/h_events.html. Peach Days features a rodeo, entertainment, and a parade, among other events. Information: www.cityofhurricane.com.
• The Salt Lake Bees take on Sacramento Friday at 7:05 p.m. at Spring Mobile Ballpark.
• Seven Peaks water parks in Salt Lake City and Provo will end their seasons after this weekend, making Labor Day the last chance to swim at the parks.
Gas prices2 comments on this story
AAA Travel predicts 33 million Americans will drive at least 50 miles for holiday activities during the three-day weekend, up from the 32.1 million people who traveled during the same period last year. In Utah they'll be paying an average of $3.68 at the pump, 10 cents below the national average but above the $3.53 a gallon average a year ago and the $3.43 they were paying only last month, according to AAA.
"We have some of the lowest gas prices in the country," Rolayne Fairclough, AAA Utah spokesperson, said. "There are only 15 states with lower gas prices. I believe we're still going to take those trips that we've planned."
Mild temperatures are expected throughout Utah with the only possible interruptions Saturday thunderstorms in mountain areas.