I’ve seen, online, that there are several states have cancelled Fourth of July Firework display mainly because of the very real threat of fires brought on by severe drought conditions.. I guess that’s quite reasonable though it seems almost sacrilegious when viewed through the perspective of Founding Father John Adams who wrote to his wife about the signing of the Declaration of Independence (though he was off by two days) that the day should be…”solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
While it might not have happened more than once or twice, it seemed that the small town I grew up in on Cape Cod, Orleans, only had fireworks displays every other year.
The reason for the cancellations were quite political and caused by people who would, today, be quite comfortable being labelled as “Tea Party” members, i.e. short-sited, moronic dunderheads.
Our fireworks were shot off down at Nauset Beach for several reasons among which were you can’t set the Atlantic Ocean on fire, the beach had the biggest parking lot in town and the town’s bandstand was there for concerts put on by the Town Band (to which I, and later my brothers, all belonged).Coincidentally it was also where my family had its restaurant. The only one on the beach.
Orleans had what is called “Town Meeting” form of government. Truly the most democratic form of governance there is. Every year a couple of weeks before the Town Meeting registered voters and tax payers of the town would receive the annual “Warrant.” The Warrant contained all the issues that were to be faced by the Board of Selectmen for the coming year and all the spending issues that were to be expected: school budget, how much money was going to be spent for the library, the fire and police departments, road maintenance expenditures, that sort of thing. There would also be an appropriation for such things as Fourth of July fireworks.
At Town Meeting anyone could get up and have their say as to whether or not such funds should be appropriated and spent and one of the early “Teabaggers” would get up on their hind legs and say that the town shouldn’t spend money on fireworks at the beach because all it was doing was giving Jim Philbrick’s Snack Shack a huge pay day at tax payer expense, what with the crowd going to the beach and buying popcorn, sodas, hot dogs, etc. at my family’s restaurant. There would generally be enough people to agree that the money could be better spent on other things.
So, that year we’d have to go to a neighboring town if we wanted to partake of a grinchless Fourth.
Then, of course, the following year’s Town Meeting there would be someone else who would get up and ask why there wasn’t any money being set aside for a Fourth of July fireworks display? “When I was a kid,” they’d say, “we always had a fireworks display. Whatever happened to them?” Then there’d be a special appropriation made and we’d have fireworks again for a year and this pattern seemed to go on year after year. Or at least so it seemed that way to me.
The interesting thing was that while the Fourth always WAS a big day for our business, in the 35 years my family operated the Snack Shack the Fourth was NEVER the busiest day of the year. It was almost always beaten by just an ordinary day that peaked with a simple Wednesday night band concert.
Here in Panama, of course, the Fourth is just the day sandwiched between the third and the fifth of July. But over in Gringolandia, better known as Boquet, a couple of restaurants are holding Fourth of July parties for the expat community.
For those of you who aren’t going to have a fireworks display this year I leave you with this from the Concours International Feux d’Artifice pyromélodiques @ Monaco 2010, part of an International fireworks competition held every year with the display synchronized to music. Enjoy and have a happy fourth.