Thursday, July 05, 2012

Independence Day 2012

I’ve long regarded the Fourth of July to be one of the most stressful holidays to celebrate. It requires effort, patience, and more of competitive spirit than I’d typically like to offer. To get anywhere near a decent fireworks show involves becoming part of a mass exodus. Unless you want to be stuck watching the fireworks through a thicket of tall trees that nearly obscure them from view, you have to lay claim to a spot of land early. Unless you happen to live very near to a park or venue at which a firework show is scheduled, this requires driving somewhere and battling for a parking spot. Of course, if you’re going early enough to get a good spot of land on which to sit and watch the fireworks, you’re more likely to get a decent parking spot. Your payment will come after the show, when you find yourself smack dab in the middle of the chaos and have to fight your way out of it. In the past, it’s taken me hours to drive a few miles after a fireworks show. A cavalcade of vehicles trying to ford an unending stream of pedestrians is time-consuming business. If you’re content to watch the fireworks from afar, you might avoid some of this hubbub, but chances are you won’t avoid it completely. You’ll either end up just on the outskirts of the mania at the cost of a less spectacular show, or you’ll be competing with other folks who are trying the same alternative approach to observing fireworks that you are. The further from the show you get, the less the madness. But then you’re left figuring out where exactly you can go and still be able to see the show. Nothing comes free on the day we celebrate our freedom.

I mention all of the above only because I’m so extremely pleased by my experience this year. This was our fourth Fourth (and likely our final Fourth) of July in Tallahassee. One thing I absolutely love about this town is that, at its most manic, it’s not that bad. The busiest, most crowded places I’ve been have been quite tolerable. I’ll miss that if I ever move to a larger city (which I fully expect and hope to do). But even the Fourth of July can get a bit hectic around here. Probably the very worst crowd situation I’ve dealt with in Tally came two years ago, when Melanie and I took the kids to the fireworks show at Tom Brown Park. Tom Brown Park offers the granddaddy of fireworks shows in Tallahassee, and we found ourselves about as close to the show as was possible. It took forever getting out afterwards, and I hoped not to repeat that in the future. Last year, we ended up learning about a fireworks show that takes place at a small lake even nearer to our home than Tom Brown Park. We celebrated the Fourth at the lake in 2011, and it worked out beautifully. It still took some time getting out afterwards, but nothing like the two previous years. This year, we again decided to take to the lake, and it was an even more blissful experience. Here’s a quick rundown of the night’s events.

At about 745pm, we arrive at the lake, having loaded up on treats/snacks at a nearby Circle K. We pull right up to the park area in front of the lake, as close as you could possibly get to the “seating” area without driving onto the grass and killing people. A better parking spot could not have been had. As we get out of the van, the kids are excited by the presence of inflatable bounce houses. We didn’t see those last year, but it may be because we were slightly more removed and more late-coming to the festivities. I’m not convinced they were new this year. Regardless, the bounce houses were free. They were also giving away free snow cones, and possibly free burgers. The kids played in the bounce houses a couple of times during the approximately 90-minute wait until the firework show began. They also ran around a fair deal. The humidity was worse than I can remember it being since we’ve moved here, but everyone remained in fairly good spirits. We enjoyed our treats and the wait time passed quickly enough.

At approximately 915pm, someone sang the national anthem and the firework show got underway. Eddie and Peter were both fascinated. Eddie felt extreme pride over his lack of fear. Last year, the noise had frightened him enough that he didn’t even want to look at the fireworks. He refused to watch, even with his ears covered. When the show was over, he was devastated that he had missed it all. Needless to say, I was quite pleased that Eddie was nothing but enamored of the fireworks this year. He kept his ears covered, but as he himself proudly and loudly proclaimed to us in mid-show, he wasn’t scared at all. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Creegan. Before the official fireworks show got underway, some nearby residents were setting off fireworks. They were the kind that shoot up into the air and explode, but they were obviously nothing in comparison to the “real” fireworks. Creegan was curious about these lesser fireworks, but they did nothing to prepare him for the official fireworks show. As soon as the official fireworks started to pop, Creegan scrambled into Melanie’s arms and held on tight, burying his face into her shoulder. After a moment or two, he climbed over to me and I held him for the remainder of the show. I kept my thumb over his left ear as he kept his right ear against my shoulder. He never looked up, despite our occasional encouragement. The rest of us enjoyed the show.

When the fireworks show ended, nobody scrambled to their feet in a desperate attempt to get out of there before the traffic (pedestrian and vehicular alike) swelled. The crowd offered an enthusiastic applause, sat there for an appreciative moment, and then casually gathered their things and calmly walked to their cars. Melanie pointed this out to me, and I find the behavior quite telling. I love the easygoing nature of a smaller city. But despite the calmness, I was worried about getting away from the lake. Our van could not have been more immersed in the festivities than it was, and I assumed it would take a while for us to get out of there. But it didn’t. I didn’t even have to wait to pull onto the road. Once on the road, we had to stop immediately. We waited for a few minutes before I decided to flip a U and go the other direction. Once I did that, there was no stopping whatsoever, other than for stop signs and traffic lights. There was no slow down at all. We were home ten minutes later. That we could attend a fireworks show, have an optimal parking spot and a premier spot of land on which to sit, and be home within 20 minutes of the show ending is absolutely staggering in my mind. God bless America! Or at least Tallahassee!

And now for some photos:

I’m including this photo, just so you can see how sweaty Creegan’s head is. The humidity was killer.

Happy birthday, America!!

1 comment:

  1. I didn't even think about the sweat in Creegan's hair. I just thought how cute and cuddly, but sad, he was being. I'm glad you had such a good time and it went so smoothly.
    Jeff and I had a bit of a fight trying to figure out what to do for the 4th- it is a stressful holiday, especially with little kids and he had to work that night... I finally decided the kids were too young to be out that late and gave up that idea but we did go to our town's parade. That was fun!