Tonight is the annual Red, White and Boom fireworks show in Columbus. It’s always held on the Friday before Independence Day, and it’s a great celebration of pyrotechnics and loud noises that draws hundreds of thousands of people to downtown Columbus to ooh and aah about the latest bursting shell.
It’s also kind of a pain in the ass.
The problem is that people come to downtown not just to watch the show, but to camp out and get well lubricated hours before the show even begins. So, the green space gets occupied by blankets and people working on their 12-ounce curl techniques in the early afternoon hours. By the time the show starts, some of the observers are so liquored up they don’t know if they’re actually seeing fireworks or seeing stars from the drunken tumble that caused them to crack their heads on their neighbor’s cooler. Add to that the heavy traffic that comes into the downtown area, causing mass tie-ups, and the debris left by the hordes, and its not a pretty picture.
In short, in my view Red, White and Boom doesn’t exactly show Columbus off at its finest. Because I’m a patriotic guy, I’ll accept the inconvenience and hassle once a year. But when the Red, White and Boom comes to downtown, I go.
We didn’t see all of the Red, White & Boom fireworks extravaganza in downtown Columbus, but we saw and heard enough to scare the dickens out of Kasey — and we didn’t have to leave our backyard. And then we were treated to stray fireworks exhibitions in our neighborhood, too.
Happy Fourth of July, everyone!
I love fireworks. Who doesn’t? They’re magical. On the other hand, Red, White & Boom, Columbus’ titanic Fourth of July fireworks show, is an absolute zoo. Hundreds of thousands of people cram into downtown to watch the blasts and hear the booms, and then the city is gridlocked forever by a colossal, once-a-year traffic jam.
I hate massive, milling crowds of sweaty, messily drunken people, and I despise unending, exhaust-laden traffic jams. So, as much as I like fireworks, I have let my disdain for getting caught in a crush of humanity keep me from ever watching a Red, White & Boom show.
Until this year — potentially. The accompanying photo is taken from one of the chairs at the table in our backyard. It shows the tops of two of the buildings in the southern part of downtown Columbus. On Friday night, when Red, White & Boom begins, I’ll be out in my backyard, drinking an ice-cold adult beverage and waiting to see whether the fireworks are visible from my backyard perch. If so, I’ll quaff my frosty tonic and enjoy the show. If the fireworks unfortunately don’t show above the rooftops, I guess I’ve just have to guzzle my brew nevertheless.
What could be more American than fireworks on the Fourth of July? These days . . . maybe a desire for increased tax revenue by state governments?
Richard has an interesting article in the Chicago Tribune today about fireworks sales in Indiana stores that are just across the state line from Chicago. There are bunch of those stores, ready to serve the insatiable fireworks appetites of Chicago area residents, and not surprisingly the weeks around the Fourth of July are their biggest sales period.
Illinois strictly prohibits fireworks sales while neighboring Indiana broadly permits them, and recently Indiana loosened its regulations to allow out-of-staters to buy fireworks more easily. The result is a proliferation of stores and sales. Sales of consumer fireworks in the U.S. now exceed $660 million, and 42 states allow the sale of consumer fireworks to the maximum extent permitted by federal law — largely because increased consumer sales means increased tax revenues.
The Nanny State impulse is at work in our society, with know-it-all regulators and advocacy group trying to dictate what we consume and what we do, but the zeal for more tax revenue seems to be trumping the notion that government exists to protect us from every risk and form of sin we might undertake. Perhaps the back story of the American Revolution has been turned on its head, and taxation and freedom now go hand in hand. If the hunger for taxes has convinced state governments to permit Americans to freely purchase explosive devices and detonate them at their whim, maybe we shouldn’t be that concerned about the increasing intrusion of government into our personal liberties.
Tonight is Red, White, & BOOM! night in downtown Columbus, and when I left the office this afternoon — we knock off early, so people can beat the traffic — fireworks fans were already gathering by the riverfront and the food vendors were hawking their wares. All of the ingredients of a traditional Fourth of July fireworks display were present: bad traffic, junk food, t-shirts with bald eagles that are two sizes too small, blankets and lawn chairs, corn dogs, miniature American flags, coolers of ice-cold beer, cutoff jeans, soft-serve ice cream, and acres of exposed human flab.
Let the fireworks begin!
May you enjoy the pageantry of a parade, the strains of a John Philip Sousa march, and the happy faces of children as the bands and floats pass by. May your fireworks be bright, and your hot dogs succulent, and your family cookouts fun-filled.
And, at some point today, may you pause to consider a veteran’s sacrifice, reflect on what has made this country great, and consider what we all can do to make this country even greater. We’ve still got work to do.