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Lake Lanier boaters celebrate unofficial end of summer

Boaters enjoyed the unofficial end of summer on Monday on Lake Lanier, which wasn’t quite as busy as the Fourth of July, in part because of a chance of rain most of the weekend, park officials said. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

Boaters enjoyed the unofficial end of summer on Monday on Lake Lanier, which wasn’t quite as busy as the Fourth of July, in part because of a chance of rain most of the weekend, park officials said. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

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Lake Lanier park attendant Judy Dodson takes admission from park attendees visiting to cook out with family and friends, or launch a boat on the water. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

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Boaters enjoyed the unofficial end of summer on Monday on Lake Lanier, which wasn’t quite as busy as the Fourth of July, in part because of a chance of rain most of the weekend, park officials said. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

BUFORD — In the 17 years Charlie Sill has lived in Kennesaw, he never made it to Lake Lanier.

That changed on Monday.

Sill rolled into Lanier Park late Monday morning with Federico Vasquez to enjoy the end of a three-day weekend.

“We wanted to get to the beach, and didn’t want to drive to Savannah or Tybee Island, so this is a good alternative because it’s close,” Sill said. “It offers the same deal without the waves, the crazy crowds and the driving. Proximity is a big thing.”

A slow and steady stream of cars and SUVs pulling boats drove into Lanier Park where Wayne and Judy Dodson, who worked the entrance building to the park, took $4 admission. The first holiday after a very busy Fourth of July — where cars were lined up down the hill — was much slower, the Dodsons said.

A mix of clouds and sun most of Labor Day weekend, and chances of rain kept the crowds at bay.

“This is not what I consider busy, but the threat of rain has held people off a lot,” Judy said. “They don’t want to go out on their boat and get drenched, and then have to come in when the lightning starts.”

Sunday was slow in the morning, but picked up in the afternoon as the parking lot reached capacity by 1 p.m. Saturday was slower than that, and never filled up, Wayne said.

Extended family gatherings are typically a popular reason to visit Lanier on a holiday weekend, and the Dodsons said they recommend families arrive before noon to ensure there are enough parking spots available.

Valerie Ferrin of Norcross and her family arrived in the morning packed with all the fixings for a barbecue. Ferrin said her family moved to the area last year from South Florida, and found Lanier to be a place to return to after their first visit.

“We had such a good experience and everybody was so sweet and nice, that’s why we decided to venture out,” said Ferrin, who added it’s the closest water available.

The Ferrins came ready to start a grill for a barbecue, and rent a kayak and jet ski — all to soak help soak in the last rays of summer.

“As much sun as you can,” she said. “That’s pretty much it, because winter comes pretty fast, and last year we experienced that here.”

The change of seasons won’t keep Sill and Vazquez away. Now that they’ve visited Lanier, they plan to return soon.

“We’ll be back in the fall, too, because this lake really changes with the seasons,” Sill said. “It’s delightful to look at in any season.”