Oak Creek celebrates Labor Day in style

Skydivers, races, people all part of holiday weekend tradition

Labor Day weekend in Oak Creek is worth the drive.

People from across Colorado come each year to witness the spectacle of events that have taken place the first weekend of September each year almost since Oak Creek was founded.

Events span from Friday to Labor Day Monday and include dance performances, pancake breakfasts, a soap box derby, arts and craft vendors, a comedy show and live music. The grand finale takes place Monday with the annual Labor Day Parade, followed by a party at Decker Park in the middle of town.

The parade features children riding horses, bikes and even sheep, and childlike adults revving up their sports cars for the cheering audience. Smiles all around.

After the parade, almost everyone in town paraded over to the park, where they gathered beneath a clear blue sky Monday.

And everyone's eyes were on the sky. A small plane circled over the park, as everyone watched, waiting. All of a sudden, four skydivers jumped, heading for a pizza pan in the middle of a clearing in the park. Crowd members circled as they came in. Two of the skydivers landed on the pan, drawing loud cheers from the crowd.

Minutes later, the plane roared by again, this time about 100 feet above the park, drawing even louder cheers.

The rest of the afternoon, children had the option of playing at the playground or joining in the foot races that have been a yearly tradition. Races were held for all ages. Winners of sack races, three-legged races and foot races were awarded with candy, cash prizes or both.

Those in attendance also were treated to a mock Western gunfight performance, in which "Justice prevailed!" as the "good guys" proclaimed.

Grilled food, shopping and volleyball were offered throughout the rest of the day. And others were serving up good stories.

Clarence Babcock Sr., 80, father of Decker Babcock, whom the park is named after, shared a couple of stories.

Babcock lives in Grand Junction but comes back to Oak Creek every year for Labor Day. He worked in area coal mines for 38 1/2 years and has many friends in town. He said Labor Day in Oak Creek was more like a family reunion.

"I see a lot friends each year I don't normally see," Babcock said.

Babcock said he used to run in all the foot races when he was a child, and he remembers his parents running in the races, as well. He even remembers it snowing 30 inches the Labor Day of 1961.

Fred McCauley doesn't have memories of long-past Labor Days in Oak Creek. The Enterprise resident said he and his wife, Deborah, and daughters, Madison and Morgan, come to Oak Creek each year for the festivities before his annual hunt in the Flat Tops. This is McCauley's ninth consecutive year in Oak Creek for Labor Day.

"It's real homey," McCauley said. "It's down to Earth. These are real people, and they're real friendly."

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204 or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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