“Patriotism is displayed in many ways. It is flying the American flag from your homes, businesses or government buildings. It can be a somber visit to a memorial site or saluting and thanking a veteran. And, yes, it is a spirited community coming together to celebrate our country and our freedoms in a 4th of July fireworks show.”
That Rockwellian description of American pride was penned by Falmouth legend Karen Rinaldo in an introduction to the recently published book, “A Patriotic Tribute—Falmouth Fireworks Celebrating 40 years,” published by the Falmouth Fireworks Committee (FFC) and on sale now to benefit the storied history of this most-cherished of Falmouth organizations. Like anything Karen touches, the book is a feast for the senses, with paintings, poetry, narratives, and a loving look back at the history of one of our most-enduring summer traditions, the 4th of July fireworks on Vineyard Sound. The Falmouth Fireworks Committee, which this year celebrated its 40th anniversary, had to postpone this year’s pyrotechnic display and celebration of summer in Falmouth due to the pandemic. However, rather than postpone the celebration until next summer, this group of tireless volunteers embarked on a project to commemorate 40 years of fireworks and countless memories made for thousands of families.
The book, which is on sale locally, will benefit a return to a sparkling night sky on July 4, 2021, and is the COVID-friendly substitute for the annual Operation Beg, where familiar faces like Arthur Ratsy, Karen Chorches, Susie Palanza, and FFC chair Carolyn Woods, among many others, sit outside Stop & Shop in all kinds of weather and sell the now-famous Falmouth Fireworks T-shirts, each year’s rendition with an original Karen Rinaldo design. Some families collect them and have each year’s edition. Now families who have celebrated nearly a half-century of Falmouth Fireworks memories can thumb through local history in a few moments. The books are available at the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce, Ace Hardware, The Gallery on Main, Celebrations, Uncle Bill’s, West Falmouth Market, New Wave Printing, and the Moonakis Café. All of the $25 price benefits the work of the FFC. The book would be a find at 10 times the price, as the memories it evokes and the history it provides are priceless.
According to founding committee member Arthur, “Falmouth’s celebration began 40 years ago with a small group of proud Americans gathered for a social evening. The conversation turned to a central question: Why don’t we have fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July? Thus was born a committee to bring an Independence Day to Falmouth.” Knowing Arthur, that “social gathering” was filled with good food, great friends, and lots of laughter. Those were all surely on the menu when I met Arthur, Karen, and another dynamic FFC volunteer, Kevin Doyle, for breakfast recently to discuss the FFC’s anniversary and the book that looks back on it all. As we savored omelets and shared memories at the Talk of the Town in North Falmouth, I was able to read this amazing reflection of the history of this patriotic labor of love and gain a deeper insight into the countless hours it takes to make this gift to our community happen every year. “We love our country. We love our town,” explained Arthur, an outstanding octogenarian dynamo who has the same twinkle in his eye for this annual display as he did when he and some friends conceived it decades ago.
Arthur and I grinned and guffawed as we remembered a fireworks fundraiser in the mid-’90s, when Bill Zammer donated his Flying Bridge restaurant for a “celebrity server” spaghetti dinner, and Arthur and I served hungry patrons some spaghetti and meatballs, and also served our thirsty selves from the bar, making both money for the FFC and memories for all involved.
Reading this fun reflection of the history of the fireworks in Falmouth will evoke similar smiles for countless Falmouthites and visitors. The book not only commemorates four decades of fireworks, it shares 30 years of those T-shirt designs, each a loving work of art imagined by Karen’s gifted mind and brought to life by her gifted hands. Each year’s T-shirt design is accompanied by a narrative with memories of that day, preserved by FFC volunteers and shared as part of this priceless slice of local history.
This locally created anthology of volunteerism and its lasting results on the soul of our community also features original poems by Karen, highlighting not only her limitless talents, but her deep commitment to those who serve. In a poem titled, “Prayer for First Responders,” Karen writes, “One more day to be the first responder, no better job on Earth, And no better way to witness, The human spirit in all its worth.” Those words, as beautiful and true as they are in describing those who serve us as first responders, also describe the human spirit and all of its worth in incredible volunteers and community gems like Karen, Arthur, and Kevin.
In one of the forewords to the book, select board chairwoman Megan English Braga encapsulates what the FFC and the annual display means to its fans across the globe. She notes that, “I have had the great fortune to watch the awe on my children’s faces as that first spark lights the sky. This tradition creates a continuity and connection through generations and across the differences that set us apart from each other. Whether we are watching for the first time or the 40th time…we are all looking for a bit of magic in the night sky.” Megan said in a few poignant and pithy words what generations of Falmouth Fireworks fans have experienced each year. The Falmouth Fireworks are a magical connection that binds us all, and the amazing volunteers of the Falmouth Fireworks Committee are the glue that keeps that connection going. Here’s to 40 years of magic—and 40 more to come.