Got your Labor Day plans set?

I do.

I’ll be spending the holiday in exactly the same way I have spent it for the last three decades – at the homestead with my extended family in South Haven.

Chilling at the South beach, reading a novel, and listening to the waves? Check!

Stocking up on early holiday gifts by strolls the stalls at the Art Fair in Stanley Johnson Park and at Murphy’s Antiques? Check!

Stepping away from the crowds to have a drink at Captain Lou’s on the marina? Check!

Stocking up on Red Haven peaches at Barden’s Farm Market? Check!

Having a cookout where we have watermelon seed spitting contests and play inter-generational T-ball? Check!

(Watch out – even in his 90s, Grandpa loves stealing home!)

Ever since I can remember, my immediate family would make the trek from our home in the Flint area to South Haven for Labor Day. It was a time to get out from the under the watchful eyes of my parents and explore the town with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Days lived in bathing suits and the last carefree moments of summer savored before it was back to school and schedules.

Even as a young adult, living away from home in Chicago, I made sure I returned to South Haven for the Labor Day holiday. It was always my last chance to enjoy the Mitten State for the summer before the long stretch to the Thanksgiving holiday. Even now as a working professional and West Michigan resident, it’s still part of my yearly ritual.

These old traditions eased our family from summer to fall and bring us closer together. And while we do them year after year, there is a newness and richness that comes from changing circumstances and players.

One of those new players this year is my daughter, Vivian. We relocated back to Michigan in part because we wanted to start a family. She will be enjoying these activities for the first time. I can’t wait to see the face she makes at having sand between her toes or her squeals of laughter chasing after foul balls.

West Michigan has always had my heart (I even honeymooned in South Haven!), and now it is my home. I could not imagine my daughter, with all our traditions, anywhere else.

About the Author: Justine Burdette

Justine Burdette is the Vice President, Technical Services at The Right Place and Regional Director for Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center West office in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She loves living in West Michigan because of the easy access to arts and cultural events and the great outdoors.