Friday, July 04, 2008

Red, white and blue

Welp, after 15 years in this neighborhood, I think I am finally sick of the Fourth of July festival. Every year, the same thing. The same carnival, the same games, the same musicians, the same art fair with the same artists selling the same stuff. The only change is the food vendors: Pizza Extreme instead of Pizza Oven, and no sub sandwiches at all this year. Otherwise, even the food is the same. I was glad when, about five years ago, they finally started getting some good vendors who sold things other than meat. It was always so disappointing to get a bottle of water and an ice cream cone. It's just not that hard to offer food without dead animals all over it.

Last week, we went to Rhythm & Booms in Madison. We haven't gone in years. Eric and Kayleigh went a couple times since Kelsey was born, but when Kelsey was little, she hated loud noises, so she and I hung out at my mom's, just a couple miles from the park. My mom used to enjoy going, but she didn't go this year. She loves fireworks, but it's too hard for her.

When she used to come, we would park the car in the morning across the four-lane road across from the park. If you didn't have to cross that road, it was fairly smooth sailing back to her house. Rhythm and Booms is well-attended, usually with around 300,000 people going, so you had to claim your parking space early.

Shortly before the fireworks would start, one of us would drive everyone down to the park. They would find a bare spot in the grass, which wasn't always easy. Then whoever had the car drove back to my mom's and walked down to the park in time for the fireworks. When the display was over, we'd make the slow shuffle across the street and up into the little residential roads where we'd parked the car. The ride to my mom's usually took about half an hour or 45 minutes. On a regular day, it takes about 5 minutes.

One year, a family along the drive home had a toilet in their front yard. They handed out bean bags to people sitting in their cars and invited them to try to toss the bags into the toilet. It was a lighthearted way to kill the time in gridlock, with lots of cheers all around. My mom got one in, so it was especially fun.

A couple of times, we made the mistake of trying to go home instead of staying at my mom's. It took hours – we live 20 minutes away from her. This year we pitched the tent in the back yard. It has been a mosquito-y year after all the floods. The newspaper reported that the number of mosquitoes at the park was 100 times what they typically see for that time of year, and I absolutely believe it. My mom worried about us camping out because of all the skeeters. She and my nephew said we were crazy to go to the fireworks. But we went.

And this year, there was lots of space and no mosquitoes. I suppose a lot of people didn't want to spend the gas money, and the weather was questionable. But there was a nice, light wind, which likely kept the mosquitoes away. So we had a fantastic seat, right up close, and no pests.

There were cannons this year, which was fun. Loud. Very loud.

Afterward, we walked back to my mom's house and got ready for bed. The mosquitoes were apparently asleep, too, because they weren't hanging around anymore. The trouble was, though, that almost all the cops in the city were at the park. So when neighbors went insane shooting off fireworks, we just had to lie there and listen and wonder when the next bomb was going to go off. That doesn't bother me too much; it's part of the day. But it bothered Eric a lot, who startles terribly. Between that and the LIVE BAND that the neighbors hired, it made for a very restless night. The kids didn't seem to mind.

It didn't feel very festive having the Fourth of July celebrations in June. So tonight will be a little nicer since it's the actual day. Even if the fireworks are just little and even if I'm kind of sick of it.

One of our neighbors has a British flag hanging in the door. Heh.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Amy,
You make me a bit home sick. The 4th of July here, of course, just another day. I used to live by a big park in Milwaukee and it was much the same scene you describe. We used to sit on our balcony and watch the chaos for "good" spots develop. Thanks for the vicarious experience. Cheers.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I love the thought of bean bags being tossed into the toilet! My Amy just about manages to put everything down our toilet but upto now, not beanbags!!

CJ xx

Amy said...

CJ, my sister put potatoes in the toilet once and about gave my mom a heart attack before she realized they were potatoes and not something that came out of her little girl's body.

Robb, our little fireworks in our little town turned out to be quite fun and quite a lot bigger than they used to be. What are some new traditions you've adopted in NZ?

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Amy,
Well, the US Embassy down in Wellington always has a party, no fireworks, but for some reason I never get put on the guest list. I usually have a few drams of whiskey and put on some Paul Cebar!
You bring up a notion though. I know even here in my little town there live a handful of expat Americans. I should form a group to gather for holidays like the 4th, and even better Thanksgiving, another day not celebrated here. We tried to initiate a Halloween but it fizzled. Have a great day.
Ka kite ano,

christian said...

Cool pix...The cherries, Reese's and bat were my favorites.