Most of the big municipal fireworks shows have been canceled for this year’s Fourth and many of the traditional star-spangled parades have been put off another year as we climb out of our long bout with COVID. We will miss those events. But we don’t believe the jubilance of the holiday will be diminished too greatly.
The beaches will be crowded if the weather favors it and we expect there will be parties all around. In addition to celebrating, the Fourth is a time to gather the family. And there will, of course, be a lot of unofficial fireworks.
The police and fire departments will discourage recreational fireworks, as they should; fireworks are illegal and can be dangerous. But that won’t stop the hundreds, maybe thousands, of small pyrotechnic displays around the Upper Cape. These independent shows have been around since the Declaration was signed.
Almost 100 years ago, an indulgent grandfather on the north shore of Martha’s Vineyard would give two young boys $10 each to buy fireworks. That was a great deal of money back then and bought a lot of firecrackers, salutes and sparklers. They would spend the entire day making a racket. It was not recorded what their grandmother thought of it. But the place was sparsely populated and there were no neighbors to complain. The land back then was also cleared of trees and the family would climb a nearby hill at dusk and watch displays in New Bedford, Falmouth and Vineyard Haven.
The Upper Cape is a city today by comparison, and there are plenty of neighbors and many will put calls in to the police when the weekend’s noise escalates.
To them we will counsel patience. We can’t condone the use of fireworks but at the same time we delight in the celebratory effect.
And celebrate we should. Writing and signing our Declaration of Independence was an act of extraordinary bravery. Today we may think it was right and justified to slip the bonds of tyranny, but the British government took a dim view of it. Our forebears were considered traitors and would have been hanged if they were caught in the act.
This weekend, eat a hot dog or two. Toast our country and our freedom. Light some sparklers. And yes, maybe take in an unofficial pyrotechnical display. But remember also to celebrate our brilliant and brave forebears who launched the wonderful experiment that we enjoy today.