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Schoolteachers Kathy Ryan-Gidman and Kristin Harder were standing with their feet in the water at Groton Long Point beach Monday, savoring every last second of summer.
Harder, a teacher who lives in Arlington, Mass., had just 45 minutes left to enjoy the sunshine and warm breezes before she hit the highway toward home to get ready for her first day of school today.
She chose to be cheerful even if she would be packing away her blue one-piece bathing suit for a while.
"It does help that it's a beautiful day," Harder said. Despite forecasts of clouds, it was sunny and warm Monday with water temperatures in the 70s.
Ryan-Gidman, of Willington, teaches at E.O. Smith High School in Storrs, where school started last week. Technically, her summer had ended already.
"I'm truly sad," she said.
Still, she smiled because for this day at least, her toes were in the water and her face in the sun.
The calendar is cruel this time of year, with some of the summer's best weather and warmest water temperatures arriving on or after Labor Day, when kids are back in school and people's thoughts turn to cooler pastimes.
"We're already in fall," said Christen Bannock of Vernon, who was at Ocean Beach Park in New London with her boyfriend and family members. "We're back in school. We're thinking Halloween, Thanksgiving."
Still damp from a dip in the sound, she said the water was perfect.
Park Manager Dave Sugrue said it's a sad time of year at Ocean Beach.
"It's starts getting eerie around here," he said. "We're going to turn off the pool today, and it's going to get quiet."
It has, however, been a good summer at Ocean Beach, even though the hurricane that passed by on July 4 brought a dangerous undertow that forced the beach managers to shut down on what is usually their busiest day of the year. For the most part, the weather was not so hot that people avoided the beach, and on six days this year, the beach parking lot - which holds 1,500 cars - was full to capacity, Sugrue said.
On Monday, when the forecast called for cloudy skies and a chance of rain, visitors had their pick of parking spots near the boardwalk and prime real estate on the sand. Star Martin and 11 others from her family and church had left Springfield, Mass., at 7:30 a.m., having packed tents, umbrellas, towels and plenty of food and drink. They feared the weather would let them down, but Mother Nature delivered.
"The water is beautiful," Martin said. "The wind is blowing in the right way, and the sun is perfect. We have the tent. We have the food. We have the entertainment and we have each other."
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection warned Connecticut residents last week that significantly fewer lifeguards would be on duty at state parks over the Labor Day weekend because many had returned to school.
At Rocky Neck, where there were lifeguards on duty, park supervisor Gary Nasiatka said beach attendance was "very light," probably because of the forecast.
"The best day of the week was forecasted to be Saturday, and that was the heaviest (attendance)," he said.
The camping ground, however, was full all weekend, since people have to book sites far in advance, Nasiatka said.
Back at Groton Long Point, Patti Carando and her family were passing the time on the long dock that leads out from the beach. Carando's mother-in-law lives at the point, and the family visits her on weekends throughout the summer. The kids, Angelina, Luke and Dominick, can't get enough of fishing, crabbing, boating, jumping off the docks and eating ice cream at the casino.
Carando and her husband, Chris, don't mind the beach scene, either.
"I love the last hurrah of the summer," Carando said. "Next week, soccer starts and the whole fall schedule."