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Labor Day Ferris wheel lighting at the Santa Monica Pier

Published on August 15, 2023

The Santa Monica Pier Ferris Wheel will be lit red, white, blue, and featuring an animated American flag on Friday, September 1 to Monday, September 4 in recognition of Labor Day.

Labor Day is observed the first Monday in September as an annual celebration of the economic and social accomplishments of the American workforce. This year, Labor Day falls on September 4th. Pacific Park will join other landmarks across the country in displaying red, white and blue colors in observance of the holiday for the weekend of Friday, September 1, through Monday, September 4. The Ferris wheel lights can be seen from dusk until 11:35 PM each evening.

Labor Day traditionally marks the end of summer and beginning of fall in the United States. Schools begin their fall classes, and summer destinations, including the Santa Monica Pier, start scaling down hours and operations in preparation for shorter days and cooler temperatures expected in the Autumn months.


Special Lighting of the Pacific Wheel for Labor Day

Friday, September 1 to Monday, September 4
dusk (around 7 PM) to midnight

Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier


The idea of Labor Day as a holiday started in the 1880s when trade unions and labor movements organized to advocate for better working conditions in the rapidly growing factories and works houses of the industrial revolution. The holiday’s origins are still disputed with several people claiming to have started organizing and observing a holiday for laborers around this time.

The popularity of the event spread across the country. In 1887, Oregon became the first state of the United States to make Labor Day an official public holiday. By 1894, thirty U.S. states were already officially celebrating Labor Day. In that year, Congress passed a bill recognizing the first Monday of September as Labor Day and making it an official federal holiday. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill into law on June 28. The federal law, however, only made it a holiday for federal workers. As late as the 1930s, unions were encouraging workers to strike to make sure they got the day off. All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories have subsequently made Labor Day a statutory holiday. Labor Day became a federal holiday shortly after the Pullman Strike which ended in July of 1894.

During this time, May 1st was also celebrated by laborlores in what is often referred to as May Day, which has its roots as an ancient European folk holiday. In 1885 the convention of the American Federation of Labor passed a resolution calling for adoption of the eight-hour day effective May 1, 1886. While negotiation was envisioned for achievement of the shortened work day, use of the strike to enforce this demand was recognized, with May 1 advocated as a date for coordinated strike action. The proximity of the date to the bloody Haymarket affair of May 4, 1886, further accentuated May First’s radical reputation.

Interested parties debated between the dates of May 1 and the 1st Monday in September, with former being more politically charged since it now had an associate with the Haymarket bombing. President Grover Cleveland was one of those concerned that a labor holiday on May 1 would tend to become a commemoration of the Haymarket affair and would strengthen anarchist movements that backed the May 1 commemoration around the globe. In 1887, he publicly supported the September Labor Day holiday as a less inflammatory alternative, formally adopting the date as a United States federal holiday through a law that he signed in 1894.

Due its timing near the start of Autumn, Labor Day is typically celebrated with picnics and barbecues in back yards and parks across the country. It is usually the last holiday break before temperatures drop and school children return to class. Parades and fireworks shows are not uncommon for Labor Day, but less frequent than Memorial Day in May and American Independence Day in July.
The amusement park rides at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier will be open and in full operation all weekend-long for Labor Day, opening as early as 10:30 AM each day and staying open until 10 PM each evening. After Labor Day, rides will open closer to noon on weekdays and 11 AM on Friday through Sunday, closing a little after dark on weeknights. The rides will remain open until around 10 PM on weekend evenings, weather permitting. Hours for individual businesses and attractions may vary; the most up-to-date operating calendar can be found at

Light Programs on the Pacific Wheel

Pacific Park regularly programs the Ferris wheel to display seasonal programing and themed light designs for holidays and special occasions. The Pacific Wheel’s state-of-the-art lighting package was installed in 2016 and can display over 1.6 million different colors and animate patterns and icons in 24 frames per second. The energy efficient LEDs on the face of the Ferris wheel are powered by solar arrays inside Pacific Park. The light programs are curated and designed by Pacific Park staff. Each design is manually animated; some designs can take hours of programming. The aim is to provide fun, high-energy, and sometimes whimsical designs to entertain guests on the Santa Monica Pier and surrounding beaches.


Feature image courtesy of @land_arch2b