Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Red, White, and Boom

When I was a boy, we'd go to Woodland Hills Park on the Fourth of July to watch the fireworks. The LA City Fire Department would set up on the hill behind the swimming pool, and we'd sit on our blankets on the baseball fields. They'd shoot off a few fireworks, usually 3-4 at a time, and then we'd wait a moment for the next volley. Usually once or twice each year the wait would grow to 2 or 3 minutes, and the crowd would start clapping to encourage the firefighters to fire the next shot.

This was Southern California, hot and dry Southern California. While we wanted to see the fireworks show, in the back of our minds was concern that they'd inadvertently set the hills ablaze. Brush fires are a regular event in the mountains that surround the Valley. The Bel Air Fire of 1961 was still firmly implanted in our memories. Yes, I'm too young to remember it first hand, but I remember watching films of it in 1st or 2nd grade.

Peoria has a river, and here they don't have to worry about brush fires when the fireworks are fired off a barge in the middle of it. This year it was called Methodist Red, White and Boom!, the lead sponsor being Methodist Medical Center (taking over from FM 93.3 which had sponsored and aired its Sky Concert through several different formats over 20 years -- they still co-ordinated the music, simulcasting it on it's sister stations, too.) Now that the Riverfront is being developed on the East Peoria side, Peoria and East Peoria decided to have a common show. Over 100,000 people are said to have lined up near the Peoria and East Peoria Riverfronts.

Every year I am simply overwhelmed by the fireworks and this year's show was bigger yet than ever, advertising 5500 shells. The show lasts about 20 minutes, and every year I think I see more fireworks in the first 2 minutes than I had in my total lifetime before Peoria. Even when the final volley is mostly duds -- that's happened a couple of times -- it's exciting. "And the rockets' red glare..." And white, blue, purple, green, etc.

And once or twice during the show, they'll pause 2 or 3 seconds between volleys. Just for effect.

While the fireworks are wonderful, the Fourth of July is about much more than that. See here on my "political" blog for some thoughts. May God bless America; and (more importantly) may America bless God.

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