SANTA CLARA -- Although school has already been in session for one week, brothers Neal and Austin Bhandarkar of Pleasanton treated the extended Labor Day weekend as a farewell to summer fun. It started early at the water park at Great America, as the Bhandarkar brothers rode a two-person tube down a chute and then launched up a vertical wall about 35-feet high before sliding to the ground.
The brothers, along with hundreds of other Bay Area families, invaded the Boomerang Bay water park on Monday for one last chance to twist and slide down Screamin' Wombat and Down Under Thunder.
"It's like the end of summer because it's only going to be regular weekends from here on," said 15-year-old Austin Bhandarkar, a sophomore at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton.
Labor Day is often considered by some to be the official end of summer -- try telling that to kids who went back to school in mid-August -- with people flocking to the beach, barbecues and the park. And Great America's Boomerang Bay closed its doors for the season after Monday's final splash.
Some families, including Heather and Manuel Leon of Fremont and their daughters, Olivia, 10 and Sophia, 6, said they didn't want to miss their final chance to use their season passes for water play.
"We've been coming all summer, so we wanted to make sure we got in one last time," Heather Leon said as the family began walking up a staircase for another slide.
Great America General Manager Raul Rehnborg expected a busy weekend with new guests and season pass holders. For a while, it looked as though rain may get in the way as a few drops were felt in North San Jose about an hour before the park opened.
But the sun broke through mid-morning, and the sun-splashed water park was filled with families by noon.
Rehnborg said the park remains open on weekends through October and is hosting various events in the fall, most notably a Halloween Haunt in October.
Austin and Neal's dad, Juhas Bhandarkar, said the long Labor Day weekend was a good chance to enjoy a day together before school really kicks in and "takes over."
"This is the last weekend for the water," Juhas Bhandarkar said. "We like the fact it's outdoors. It's entertainment, but still you're having good healthy exercise-based fun. You're walking around, doing things."
Other families say Labor Day signals the transition from summer fun to the great balancing act of school, sports and other extra-curricular activities, such as dance and music lessons.
Ali Montgomery of San Jose was at the water park with her kids Alex, 13, and Alisa, 9, who are active in basketball, volleyball, hockey, gymnastics and piano.
"And we're nothing like some of these people," Montgomery said. "What we do in a week some people do in a day."
Katrina Inouye, her husband Darrin and daughters Dominyk, 4, and Karissa, 10, got to the park early enough to get some chairs under shaded canopies near the wave pool. The family spent their morning riding slides before heading to the wave pool.
Karissa said she enjoys the rides and just "getting wet."
"It's a lot of fun," Karissa said. "It's nice and sunny."
Some families proved they don't need to be thrill-junkies to have fun in the water.
Vu Nguyen and his 4-year-old son Hasun found a small little corner of a wading pool at the theme park and spent a good part of their morning kicking, splashing and jumping in the lagoon, which at its deepest is 3 feet.
Hasun was grinning ear to ear, playing with his dad and a preschool friend. The two boys laughed and splashed each other as Nguyen sat and watched.
"We'll stay until they're pooped out and then go home," Nguyen said.
Contact Mark Gomez at 408-920-5869. Follow him at Twitter.com@MarkMgomez.