Steve Schappell-My Blog

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

It's Colored Boom Boom time

I love fireworks.   Always have since I can remember.  And we are heading for prime time.  The 4th of July.  Fireworks season normally starts around Memorial Day, usually at minor league baseball games and some carnivals.  It really ramps up for Independence Day (No, not the movie), and winds down in the fall.

This is going to bring up some memories buried in the old, and now bald, cranium.  Bear with me, as I talk about all things fireworks related.  Let's get in the way back machine and travel in time to the early 70's.

I grew up in small town Hamburg, PA.  Back then, it was on the map because we had a State Police station outside of town.  Nowadays, it is known for having a Cabela's outside town.  At one corner of the town was the local park.  The park had a ball field, band shell for music, swimming pool and playground.  When Memorial Day would roll around, the park would have a carnival, with rides, games and music.  For me, the highlight was the last night and the Fireworks.  Here is how it would work.  The band that normally played was "Crazy Elmer and the Outlaws," a group still performing today!  They featured country music and comedy, ala Hee Haw.  Anyway, the fireworks were to start at 10:00 pm, but they never did.  The band was told to milk  the crowd to buy more food, drinks and play Bingo.  Back then you could park your car in the park on the lawn and watch the Fireworks from you car, or in some cases, on the roof.  That's what I remember.  Fireworks going off overhead while sitting on the car roof.  Good stuff.

I got my first taste of "out of town" fireworks when my parents and grandmother traveled to Disney World,  They would have fireworks every night over the castle and the lagoon.  (There was no Epcot yet)  I thought they were some of the best.  But I had not seen anything yet.

During the summer growing up, we would go to the beach in Wildwood, NJ.   If we were lucky enough to be there over the 4th, I got to see fireworks from out hotel roof, being set off over the ocean.  They were not bad.  More on this later.

Also in my teen years, I would travel to Shillington, PA during the end of their annual Community Days celebration, which still goes on today.  Back then, we watched the fireworks from an open field across from the vendors and where they were set off.  These lasted a good 45 minutes and had ground displays we would never see, as we sat farther away.   What I remember most, other than the fireworks, was the long traffic jams and fireworks go together?  Oh yea, lots of other people like fireworks also.  More on this later.

Moving ahead to college, or was it after....don't get older people.  Stay young.  I remember it was after a college homecoming and football game.  There were fireworks in downtown Pittsburgh, by the Zambelli Fireworks company.  It was amazing.  Fireworks from the City rooftops, launching from barges on the rivers.  They were going off all around you.  I remember a frantic ride to get into the city and then not knowing where to park.  It was a great time.   More on this later.

After I was first married and my son was 4 years old, and my ex wife was expecting our 2nd child, we had the great idea to travel to Washington DC to see the fireworks celebration on the 4th.  This was in 1999 and on a Sunday.  We will drive down for the weekend, we thought.  We will go some sightseeing, we said.  How many people could possibly be there?  How about thousands.  Tens of thousands.  We were by the Washington Monument--with everyone else.  Oh yea, the weather was hot and muggy.  Great for pregnant mothers.  And the porta potties...I can still remember the terrible smells.  All this for a 15 minute show?  Afterwards, it takes about 2 hours to clear out the mall.  We waited and rode the Metro.  A packed Metro back to our hotel.  Never again in person.  Been there, done that.  Did not get the T-Shirt.  And no more on this later.

Now about the "more on this later."  When I was composing this, I was beginning to see parallels.  When I was young, my parents took me to the beach, and sometimes we got to see fireworks.  When I was first married, we took our kids to the beach over the week of the 4th (Where I worked, we closed for that week)  For a few summers, we stayed in Ocean City, MD at a rental home off 120th street.  The fireworks were set off 7 blocks away at a local park.  We could watch them and when done, walk back inside the house.  (Shortest commute ever)

As my kids were a little order, and after my re-marriage, we have gone back to Shillington and their fireworks.  These times; however, we have sat up close.  In the grass area not far from where they are set off.  In fact, the fireworks go off overhead and often, there are pieces of cardboard and materials floating down around you.  It's a great show, and now I know why we sat father away when I was younger.

And in Pittsburgh, my wife Shari and I celebrated New Year's eve in 2012, watching fireworks going off from building tops, like I saw in college.

And about the title, that was from my son, Drew.  When he was young, he would call fireworks, colored boom booms.  I have never heard that before, and wonder where he got that from.

I have seen many changes over the years--fireworks shows have gotten more elaborate.  The shapes are more detailed.  There are a variety of colors I don't remember seeing.  I hope you can get out and see some shows this weekend.  For me, I always become a kid again at every show.

So stay safe.  Leave your pets inside.  Enjoy the shows, and leave the fireworks to the professionals.

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