It's been nearly twenty years now, and the awful recollection still lives: my first day of school, when I was hauled away to doom while my tearful pleas fell on unsympathetic ears.

Labor Day is the Last Chance Saloon of national holidays, our final opportunity for one more fling, one more day in the sun, one last summer-style wing-ding before we dig in for the long, gray months ahead.

Fortunately, the area obliges the weekend with plenty of ways to make the most of that opportunity and bid a reluctant though boisterous farewell to the good old summertime.

If you want to close the season of sun close to home, you might want to investigate the fourth annual Frisbee DISC FESTIVAL, Sunday on the Mall between Third and Fourth streets. Meet Frisbee stars and Frisbee-catching dogs (who've yet to be taught how to throw the things), and aprticipate in Frisbee workshops.

Less energetically, there will be THE U.S. ARMY BAND tonight at 8 on the West Terrace of the Capitol, and THE U.S. AIR FORCE BAND in concert at 8:30 on the Jefferson Memorial grounds. Both free.

There's more free music at the Fort Dupont Summer Theater, with AKIYOSHI TABACKIN's BIG BAND playing Saturday night and the PAT DILLION QUARTET Sunday night, both at 8:30. Or, Sunday, you might prefer the free U.S. MARINE BAND show at 8:30 at the Jefferson Memorial.

Not free, but hot, MONGO SANTAMARIA AND HUGH MASKELA will wail at 8 at the Carter Barron Amphitheater; and, half an hour earlier, JAMES TAYLOR (alias Sweet Baby James, Mudslide Slim, Walking Man, Gorilla and JT) opens a three-night stand at the Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Friday and Saturday nights you can catch the summer's final two performances of A MID-SUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at the Sylvan Theater on the Washington Monument grounds. The curtain rises both evenings at 8:30.

THE HERITAGE AMERICANA BAND will give a free concert Satruday at 2:30 in Manassas Battlepark, Virginia.

One of the pleasures of a three-day weekend is the chance to browse farther afield.

Tehnically, Friday through Monday, the folks of Clarksburg, West Virginia, are holding their ITALIAN HERITAGE FESTIVAL.Another foreigh-flavored fete running Friday through Monday is the Grand irish JUBILEE of Barnesville, Pennsylvania. The POLISH FESTIVAL of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, starts Saturday and ends Monday, while Baltimore's JEWISH FESTIVAL runs Sunday and Monday at the Inner Harbor.

This weekend's fests cover, besides ethnic diversity, subjects as disparate as crabs, cows, Clydesdales, kids, hicks, roller coasters and grapes. For example, you might want to check out the NATIONAL HARD CRAB DERBY AND FAIR in Crisfield, Maryland, Friday through Sunday, with the plastic bottle boat regatta highlighting Saturday's events; the GLEN ECHO PARK ART EXHIBITION Friday through Monday; the MARYLAND STATE FAIR at the Timonium, Farigrounds, which began last week and continues until September 2; and Saturday's DRAFT HORSE DAY at the Belle Grove Plantation in Middletown, Pennsylvania.

You can also pick from among Saturday's ROCKBRIDGE COMMUNITY FESTIVAL in Lexington, Virginia; THE HICK FESTIVAL of Hendricks, West Virginia, Saturday and Sunday; and the annual WINE FESTIVAL AND VINEYARD TOUR in Middleburg, Virginia, Saturday through September 5.

Along with local festivals, military demonstrations play a large part in the celebration of almost every national holiday, Labor Day included. This weekend, the area offers two such events, with tours, military music and depictions of the soldier's life: Saturday, a Weekend at fort frederick/ FORCES IN GARRISON at Fort Frederick, Maryland, and Sunday, THE SOLDIER IN FIELD AND FORT at Fort Washington, Maryland. AUGUST 29 -- The U.S. Army Band will perform on the West Terrace of the Capitol at 8. Call 692-7219. AUGUST 29 -- The U.S. Air Force Band will give its "Christmas in August" concert at 8:30 p.m. at the Jefferson Memorial. AUGUST 29 -- Mongo Santamaria and Hugh Maskela will wail at the Carter Barron Amphitheatre at 8 p.m. Call 829-3200. AUGUST 29-30 -- "A Mid-Summer Night's Dream," at the Sylvan Theatre on the Washington Monument grounds. Both performances, the last of the summer, begin at 8:30 p.m. Call 426-6700. AUGUST 29-31 -- Live Jazz on WAMU-FM (88.5). Four hours of music from the Chicago Jazz Festival will be broadcast live each night, starting at 7:30. Performers include Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, James Moody, Gus Johnson, Red Rodney and others on Friday, Earl Hines' Big Band with Bud Johnson, Lorenz Alexandria and Group and others on Saturday, and the Lioinel Hampton Orchestra, the Stan Getz Quartet and others on Sunday. Call WAMU at 686-2690. AUGUST 29-31 -- National Hard Crab Derby and Fair, as Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield, Maryland. Crab races, crab-picking contest, crab-cooking contest, Miss Crustacean beauty pageant and lots of crabs to eat. Call 301/968-2682. AUGUST 29-31 -- James Taylor's on for three nights at the Merriweather Post Pavilion. Showtime for each concert is 7:30. Call 301/982-1800. AUGUST 29-SEPTEMBER 1 -- Tenth Annual Glen Echo Park Art Exhibition, Glen Echo, Maryland. Area artists will exhibit and sell their work. For the kiddies, the carousel will be running.There's an opening reception on Friday night from 7 to 10.Call 301/492-6282. AUGUST 29-SEPTEMBER 1 -- Italian Heritage Festival, Clarksburg, West Virginia. Food, music, dancing, Italian style. Call 304/622-1986. AUGUST 29-30, SEPTEMBER 1 -- Baltimore Orioles Baseball, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore. Those high-flying O's, baseball's winningest team over the last quarter-century, meet the California Angels on the 29th and 30th. Then the Seattle Mariners come in for a series which starts on the 1st. All games begin at 7:30. Call 301/338-1300 for ticket information. AUGUST 29-SEPTEMBER 1 -- Grand Irish Jubilee, Barnesville, Pennsylvania. Music, dancing, crafts, food and drinks, all with that Emerald Isle flavor. Call 717/773-2284. AUGUST 29-SEPTEMBER 2 -- Maryland State Fair, on the Timonium Fairgrounds, Timonium, Maryland. One of the biggest state fairs in the area. Rides, food, drinks, livestock shows, games and more. Call 301/252-0200. August 30 -- Draft Horse Day, at the Bell Grove Plantation, Middletown, Virginia. Demonstrations featuring the rare and massive draft horse. (The most famous breed is the Clydesdale.) There will also be activities and refreshments for humans. Call 703/869-2028. AUGUST 30 -- Rockbridge Community Festival, Lexington, Virginia. Arts and crafts, music, antique car show, dancing and more. Call 703/463-3777. AUGUST 30 -- "Life Before the Parkway." A ranger from the National Park Service will discuss how life was along the Potomac River before the George Washington Memorial Parkway was built. Meet at the Fort Hunt Park pavilion at 11. Call 557-8991. AUGUST 30 -- "Manassas Concert." The Heritage Americana Band performs at 2:30 p.m. at Manassas Battlefield Park, Virginia. Call 703/754-7107. AUGUST 30 -- "County Indians." A nature walk with a lecture on the Woodland Indians of Prince William Forest Park, Virginia. Meet at 2 in the park's nature center. Call 703/221-2104. AUGUST 30 -- A Summer Organ Recital, featuring organist Thom Robertson, at 5 at the Christ Church in Alexandria. Call 549-1450. AUGUST 30-31 -- Weekend at Fort Frederick/Forces in Garrison, Fort Frederick State Park, Maryland. Depictions of military life during the French and Indian War. Refreshments, too. Call 301/842-2504. AUGUST 30-31 -- "The Soldier in Field and Fort," at Fort Washington, Maryland. Visit the men of the infantry, cavalry and artillery, and listen to a brass band. Call 292-2112. AUGUST 30-31 -- Music at Ford Dupont Summer Theater in Washington. On the 30th, Akiyoshi Tabackin's Big Band plays, and the Pat Dillion Quartet performs on the 31st. Both shows are free and start at 8:30 p.m. Call 426-7723 or 426-6700. AUGUST 30-SEPTEMBER 1 -- International Children's Festival at Wolf Trap, Vienna, Virginia. Singers, dancers, musicians, mime artists, puppeteers and other performances from all over the world. Plus live snakes and other reptiles. Call 941-6066. AUGUST 30-SEPTEMBER 1 -- Hick Festival, Hendricks, West Virginia. Woodchipping, chainsawing and axe-throwing contests, raccoon chases, fiddeling and an ox roast. Call 304/478-2708. AUGUST 30-SEPTMBER 1 -- Polis Festival, Doylestown, Pennsylvannia. Folk dances, foods, crafts exhibits and polka bands. Call 215/345-0600. AUGUST 30-SEPTEMBER 5 -- Annual Wine Festival and Vineyard Tour. Middleburg, Virginia. Vineyard Tours, wine-making demonstrations and a g grape stomping-contest. Call 703/754-8564. AUGUST 31 -- The U.S. Marine Band plays at the Jefferson Memorial at 8:30 p.m. Call 433-4044. AUGUST 31 -- "There's a Fungus Among Us." Meets at 2 at the Rock Creek Nature Center for a two-hour walk with a professional mycologist (that's a mushroom expert). Call 426-6829.

AUGUST 31 -- Organ Recital at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, featuring organists J. Courtney Hay and William G. Noud. The music begins at 6:15 p.m. with a carillion recital. AUGUST 31 -- Fourth Annual Frisbee Disc Festival, on the Mall between Third and Fourth streets. Frisbee stars, Frisbee-catching dogs and workshops on the fine art of Frisbee-throwing. The rain date is September 1. Call 357-1552. AUGUST 31 -- Al Hirt brings his Dixieland sound to Wolf Trap for an 8 p.m. show. Call 938-3800.

AUGUST 31 -- "Survive!" An in-depth discussion of how to survive in the wild and wooly wilderness. Bring a 3-ring binder to collect handouts. Meet at the Prince William Forest Park (Virginia) Nature Center at 2 p.m. Call 703/221-2104. AUGUST 31 -- A concert by the South Carolina State College Concert Choir, at 10:30 a.m. at the Washington Cathedral. Call 537-6200. AUGUST 31-SEPTEMBER 1 -- Jewish Festival, at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. Food, music, arts and crafts, entertainment, dancing and more. Call 301/752-8632.