- Associated Press - Monday, September 3, 2012

TOLEDO, Ohio — Parades, picnics and politicians celebrated the American worker on Labor Day, with President Obama seeking votes from Ohio union members and rivals for Senate seats marching in Massachusetts and Virginia.

But for many, Monday’s holiday was a last chance to enjoy a final summer cookout, roller-coaster ride or day at the beach. Or perhaps even a stroll from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to its Lower Peninsula — along the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere.

Politics was a big part of Labor Day, the time when much of the public usually starts to pay attention to the campaigns.

Terence Glaze, a 47-year-old firefighter, waited to catch a glimpse of Mr. Obama’s motorcade at the president’s speech in Toledo, but his two young sons were eager to get to the movies instead.

“It’s a time for the family to be together and just spend time with one another. That’s the most important aspect,” he said.

“But I do also think about the sacrifices unions have made, as it relates to wages, as it relates to safety issues,” he added.

Union worker Mike Schreiner showed up for Toledo’s annual Labor Day parade because he loves the bands, the school teams and the hot dogs.

“All the kids line up and we throw Frisbees and get the candy out to ‘em. They won’t even have to do any trick or treatin’ this year — they got enough candy,” said Mr. Schreiner, 57.

More than 300 people marched in the Charlotte, N.C., Labor Day Parade, an overwhelmingly pro-Obama event a day before Tuesday’s kickoff of the Democratic National Convention. North Carolina bans collective bargaining for teachers and other public workers and has the lowest percentage of union members in the U.S.

Gil Crittendon of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 305 said he was marching in Charlotte because “it’s important that we stick together and push back.”

In Buena Vista, Va., a small town on the western slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, marchers dodged downpours from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac in a traditional parade featuring vintage stock cars and both candidates in the U.S. Senate race. Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen walked the 1 1/2-mile route — separately.

In another hotly contested race, Republican Sen. Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren both marched in Monday’s Labor Day parade in Marlborough, west of Boston.

There was a 5-mile march in Michigan, led by Gov. Rick Snyder. He and thousands of people walked across the Mackinac Bridge linking the state’s Upper and Lower peninsulas in a popular Labor Day tradition.

Mr. Snyder set a brisk 12-minute-per-mile pace in the walk, which runs from St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula to Mackinaw City. Labor Day is the one time pedestrians can use the bridge across the Straits of Mackinac where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan converge.

“The walk was a blast because you’re with thousands of Michiganders,” Mr. Snyder said in a telephone interview after arriving in Mackinaw City.

Randall Ketchapaw, 33, of Wayland has walked it every year since 1991 and is passing the tradition on to the next generation.

“My son here started when he was 3 months old,” Mr. Ketchapaw said. “This is his sixth walk. Sixth stroll, I should say.”

Along the streets of New York City’s borough of Brooklyn, people waved flags from their front stoops, drumbeats filled the air and women in brightly colored sequined costumes and feather headdresses danced to reggae music in the West Indian Day Parade.

The festive climate prevailed a year after violence marred the annual celebration of the culture of the Caribbean islands. In 2011, a bystander was killed by a stray bullet hours after the parade when police fired on an armed suspect.

About 20 Occupy Wall Street protesters were told they had to leave the parade in the middle of the route because they did not have a permit. They ended up briefly standing off to the side of the street surrounded by police.