What do you think of watching fireworks?


I said I wouldn’t have time to post today (again), but I thought I’d just put up a quick post before the subject is too old.

I spoke briefly with my brother on Sunday, and he told me that he was at Lake Hartwell with his family to watch fireworks (he lives in Greenville, and that is apparently somewhere Greenville people go). My reaction was something to the effect of “Better you than me,” and he said it wasn’t his idea; he had just gone along with the inevitable, as dads often do. This led to a brief discussion in which we found we were both, at our now-advanced ages, quite unenchanted by such spectacles.

As I said to him, such displays have little attraction to me as a spectator activity. I enjoyed blowing stuff up as a kid. I can even recall enjoying writing my name in the air with sparklers, as tame as those are.

Remember this picture of our late friend Burl taking pride in one of his early models? It caused me to respond thusly back when I first saw it:

I’m wondering — is that behind your house in Foster Village? I ask because the background looks a lot like the view from my backyard when we lived in that subdivision. We had this unbelievable view of both Pearl Harbor and the Waianae range in the background. (The lots were terraced so that our backyard lawn was higher than the roof of the house behind us, making for an amazing panorama of southwestern Oahu.)

In fact, I’m flashing on a memory here. Unlike Burl, I wasn’t a master builder of models. I didn’t paint the pilot or other small details. I’d put on the decals, of course, but beyond that my finishing touches didn’t extend beyond maybe heating the point of a pin and using it to melt machine-gun holes in the wings and fuselage.

I definitely didn’t bother with details on the little model of a V1 buzz bomb that I test-flew in that backyard in Foster Village. I built it around a firecracker, wedged into the fuselage tightly by wrapping toilet paper around it, and threaded the fuse out through a hole before final gluing. (The V1, a fairly featureless rocket, was way too boring to look at, and there were no more than five or six pieces in the kit — the only thing that made it worth building was to blow it up.)

Then I took it out there, lit the fuse, and threw it. It worked — green plastic blasted everywhere. But it was over so quick, it didn’t seem worth the time it took to build the model, even as simple as it was. So that’s the last time I did that…

Anyway, that sort of thing was cool — for a kid. But the idea of watching someone else’s fireworks go off — especially if I had to fight traffic or get into a crowd to watch it… well, that’s only slightly more enticing than watching someone else play golf. Playing golf is fine. Watching someone else do it is rather mind-numbing.

I did, a few years back, enjoy watching the fireworks over the center of London on New Year’s Eve. But that’s because I was miles away, standing atop Primrose Hill in a park, amid a fairly chill (and not overly large) group of Londoners who had walked there for the same purpose. The fun then was less in the distant fireworks, and more in the novelty of the situation — walking through London in the middle of the night, seeing the other folks arriving from various directions pushing prams and such, and watching the Brits launch those quiet UFOs I wrote about. I had never seen those before. It was all quite pleasant.

But the rest of the time, I find fireworks fairly tiresome — the neighbors setting them off as soon as the sun goes down at certain times of the year (which always makes me glad I no longer have a dog and am forced by such thoughtlessness to try to calm the poor creature down), strangers doing them on the beach when I’m trying to have a nice evening walk there, and so forth. And the idea of driving out of town to watch other people set them off is pretty unthinkable. Although, of course, we do things for kids and grandkids.

So I’m just wondering: Do you like these things? Why? Or why not, for that matter. Your reasons may differ from mine…

The terrible image I took of fireworks over London on my Blackberry, because that's what I was carrying back on the evening of Dec. 31, 2010...

The terrible image I took of fireworks over London on my Blackberry, because that’s what I was carrying back on the evening of Dec. 31, 2010…

12 thoughts on “What do you think of watching fireworks?

  1. Bob Amundson

    I recorded about 30 minutes of fireworks at the lake near my RV Resort. The fireworks were a bit boring, as usual, but I waited for the gran finale. The cheers of the thousands surrounding this lake in a small rural NYS valley was one of the most moving moments of my life. The contrast of the mortar shells echoing in the valley, and then hearing the “release” cheer, will be with me a long time.

  2. Doug T

    I drove 10 miles to get away from the fireworks….literally.

    Our border collie is terrified of noises. The 4th and New Year’s are traumatic for her. Had to drive her to a very rural spot so she would pee.

  3. Barry

    I still like fireworks displays. It reminds me of being a kid and being “wowed” by all of it.

    Fireworks at Magic Kingdom at WDW has always been great for me. Their newest fireworks show is fantastic. They really know how to do it right.

    Sunday night the fireworks from various neighbors was quite impressive this year. Some of those folks must have spent $500+.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      WDW is legit amazing for fireworks. I mean, if there’s a primo job for fireworks in the US, it’s got to be at WDW.

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    Hmmm. Perhaps the problem is me. I’m not a watcher. That’s what keeps me from being a sports fan. Sports are fun sometimes, but to PLAY, not to watch other people play. For me, anyway.

    I can still enjoy setting off fireworks up to to a point — I’ve always sort of liked bottle rockets. But the really good ones — the larger, better rockets — are too expensive. I don’t enjoy shooting them off enough to pay for them…

    I suspect I’d be a better person if I enjoyed more being in a crowd of people who are watching something together and digging it. But I generally don’t, at least not as much as other people do…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Also, I’ve changed as I’ve matured. When I was a kid, I thought laws against fireworks were an objectionable form of repression.

      Now, while I don’t really go so far as to be an advocate for such laws, they seem like a pretty smart idea. At least, they always have when I had a terrified dog on my hands. I find myself looking at it from the dog’s point of view: Is this noise necessary? No, it is not at ALL necessary…

  5. Pat

    I totally dislike neighborhood fireworks. It is very traumatic for animals and individuals don’t handle fireworks safely. We find remnants in our yard.
    A really big professional display can be nice, but it still affects animals.
    My father, who was born in 1910, used to tell me about receiving popguns and firecrackers for Christmas. His father would build a bonfire in the middle of the dirt street in front of their home and all the boys in the neighborhood would play with their popguns and firecrackers in the dawn hours of Christmas Day. Once, he noticed a black iron wash pot frozen with the water left in it and thought it would be a great idea to blow the ice out of it. He chiseled a hole in the center of the ice, stuck a firecracker in the hole, lit it, and took cover behind a tree. The firecracker blew, and to his horror, the iron pot split in half!

      1. Pat

        It wasn’t cool in that day and time. An iron wash pot was expensive and a necessity. Plus he had to face his father about it. His father was very strict. The moral he had for me in telling the story is there is some balance in child rearing. It was a memorable story for him.

  6. bud

    I’m sure the family of the young hockey player who died a couple of days ago in a fireworks accident is not ok with fireworks. I’d like to see the things banned except at professional displays. Scares our poor dog till he shakes.

  7. Scout

    I can take or leave them from an aesthetic point of view. They are nice but after one or two they all seem pretty much the same to me and it’s enough. But I think they do far more harm for the value I, personally, get out them, when you consider the effect on animals, small children, autistic children, and vets with ptsd. I wish they weren’t so popular for these reasons. I definitely wouldn’t miss them if they went away.

    I did like lighting them when I was young but even then I was much more enamored of the ones fun to watch rather than the ones that just made loud noises – like my brother and all the boys in my neighborhood seemed to love. They would get the pack of black cat fire crackers and light the whole thing at once and all it did was make alot of loud noise. I did not see the point. Once a year, my mom would take us to Jim Casey fireworks and it was like a ritual. My brother would buy all the loud things that I completely didn’t understand – like black cats and bottle rockets. I would get snakes and flowers and roman candles, cos they were fun to watch and did not make noise. We still have black circles on our back patio at my Mom’s house from my snakes. I was fascinated by how they expanded and grew from such a little pellet.

  8. Norm Ivey

    I still enjoy them, but hate the traffic. Our neighborhood collects donations, and volunteers set them off on the little island in our neighborhood lake. We can walk to the show. One year that responsibility fell on my bride and I. Even with all our caution, we sill had a couple blow up on the ground just a few feet from us. Never again. The last few years, they’ve kind of ruined the display for me by keeping a patriotic playlist on repeat during the entire show. We skipped it this year.

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