Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fireworks ...

... will soon be lighting up the skies across the country. Some will have been intricately choreographed to music and will be remotely set off by computers that have been painstakingly programmed beforehand to enhance the visual effects and provide the ultimate in entertainment.

Such will be the case here in Houston. Hundreds of thousands will line the banks of Buffalo Bayou just west of downtown where, in the daytime hours before darkness falls, there will be concerts on the various stages that have been set up and vendors distributing goods of all sorts -- foods, beverages, glowing wrist bands, flags, etc.

The fireworks themselves have different staging areas. Some are on top of hotels and office buildings and others on the ground. It is truly a magnificent sight.

[A photograph would have been really good here. I don't have that expertise yet, I'm sorry. Normally I would not be concerned about providing a photo, but this is definitely the place for one.]

I live in a small community called Glenshannon. It's not a separate town, just the name given to a housing development approximately 20 miles southwest of downtown.

Years ago, there was only one way in or out of Glenshannon. That was via Boone Loop Road, which was only accessible from Bissonnet to the east and Boone to the west. It was basically a closed, sheltered community, and it was not unusual to see residents walking down the middle of almost any street.

On the 4th of July, there would be a group of perhaps twenty of us who would drag our lawn chairs out to the end of Bexley (maybe a block and a half from my house) in preparation for an hour or so of enjoyment watching fireworks displays from first Sharpstown Mall, then Meyerland and, finally, downtown. If we looked closely, we could see those coming from Hermann Park.

Hermann Park, a story in itself, but I'm going to focus in this post on Miller Theater, an open-air outdoor theater at the north end of the park. It is now in its 80-somethingth year. All of the programs are free. (!)

It has been some time since I attended 4th of July festivities there, but I know that they still go on. The Houston Symphony used to perform a series of at least two concerts around the 4th of July every year, and the performance that ended with fireworks always concluded with the '1812 Overture' and was accompanied by live cannonfire on the hill. That was neat!

Have all of you seen a fireworks display? Do you remember your first one?

My family was still living in Akron, Ohio, when FDR died. We didn't relocate to Munising, a small town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, until I was in the 3rd grade. I don't remember any fireworks before then, but that was in the war years. Maybe there weren't any?

Munising, just a GORgeous city located on Lake Superior approximately halfway across the Upper Peninsula (UP). Fourth of July celebrations there were really something! Bands from all over the UP would come to march in our parade. There were kiddie parades, pet parades, children's games, watermelon eating contests (natch!), fire fights ... WHOA there, now ... fire fights?

Yes, sir, fire fights. Usually scheduled for around 5 or 6pm, they would draw huMONgous crowds! As you might have ascertained by now, the people were not all there to watch firemen fighting a fire. No, no, no, they were gathered to get wet!!

You could see the hoses lining the street when you arrived. As time went on (these things never start on time), the crowd would grow more and more impatient. FInally, the two teams would appear, dressed in full regalia. Huge cheers!

The hoses were turned on and began undulating. Before each team could get to its respective nozzle and control the increasingly forceful spray, ALL of the crowd in the immediate vicinity were soaked to the skin. Raucous cheers!!

The supposed object of the game was to get one team to withdraw because they were clearly dominated by the other and could not withstand the pressure. (Double entendre intended.) The REAL object of the game was to get everyone absolutely soaked! It was not at all uncommon for each team to intentionally turn its hose on various crowd members who looked 'dry'. Great fun, just great!

The fireworks usually began after 10pm. (In that part of the country, you have to wait that long before it gets dark.)

Munising Bay is a natural harbor, sheltered by Grand Island. The dock, which at one time hosted cruise ships (when the big hotel was still there), extended out into the harbor in an "L" shape. Imagine the bottom of the L, inverted, being the farthest out from land. That is where the fireworks were, ready to be set off.

It couldn't have been more than 300' from where we all sat waiting in eager anticipation. (I watched a NOVA program a short time back where they stated that the minimum area for safety is 840'! This in case a rocket accidentally fires towards the crowd, they said.)

I distinctly remember sitting on the beach watching men run back and forth along the bottom of the L, carrying their torches and individually lighting the fireworks.

Where will you be on this 4th of July and what will you be doing? For myself, I haven't decided yet. I might just decide to stay at home and watch everything on TV ... not nearly as much fun, but certainly safer.


Patrick said...

A group of my friends have gotten together in Atlanta, and we're going to spend the day and tonight together. I actually don't know whether there are any fireworks planned!

Goldenrod said...

Are you Nancy's nephew, Patrick?
Welcome aboard.

Hope you and your friends have just a fantabulous 4th!

Patrick said...

We had a great day, complete with a fun fireworks show! I am Nancy's nephew, and happy to be so.