In my 20s I thought I could create the pyrotechnic excitement for the 4th of July that I had seen in town displays of fireworks. I was lucky enough to see the city of Chicago's fireworks choreographed to the 1812 Overture at Grant Park. One year I saw the city's fireworks from Lake Shore Drive when all the cars on the drive turned off their engines and parked to watch the display. My show of pyrotechnics was going to be on a lot smaller scale, and my budget and lack of experience pushed to the smaller items. My friend and I bought Roman candles, bottle rockets, firecrackers, and items that had instructions printed in Chinese.
When we set up our first practice run we chose a more open area in the city on the north side a few days before the 4th. My friend showed me how to set up and light the bottle rockets. Roman candles had to be placed on the ground and lit with plenty of space above for the plumes of sparkling colors. In my own neighborhood the 4th of July on the near south side of Chicago is a bit of a war zone at dusk. It's risky to go for a walk as families are doing the same thing we were trying to do -- run their own fireworks show. Sidewalks, streets, and even worse alleys were staged with pyrotechnics. That year I found out that my pyrotechnic devices, or novelties, must have been old or faulty because the sparklers would sputter and stop. If you lay down a sparkler on the ground that you thought had stopped sometimes it would start up again and begin burning and sparkling unexpectedly. Other novelties were duds as once I lit them they smoked and then went out.
The scariest part of my personal display on my street was the butterfly shaped device that was small enough to fit in the palm of your hand (unlit, of course). The instructions were in Chinese, and the brief drawing of how to position it showed me that I had to place it like a real butterfly -- flat on the ground with its wings up. I did so, and I placed this butterfly about 30 feet away from me and other people. When I lit the butterfly I ran the 30 feet away. The butterfly went slightly upwards about three inches, and then it turned towards me and picked up speed. I began running, and this lit butterfly chased me down the street. Other families who were lighting snakes and poppers, the smaller fireworks were laughing at me. One father and his son had just thrown firecrackers out into the street when I had lit the butterfly, and now there was a loud bang-bang-banging as I sped by. Some of those firecrackers bounced in front of me so I was running and hopping and leaping hoping I wouldn't be caught by a red hot butterfly or firecracker.
This year in 2022 on July 2nd the owner of our RV campground carefully positioned the pyrotechnic novelty devices far away from all of us RV folk sitting on our lawn chairs. Each device was a certain distance away from the other. The owner had several family members at the ready to light different fireworks. It was nicely orchestrated with small to medium fountains of color going while at the end of the parking lot the large fireworks went shooting up into starbursts of red, yellow, and blue high in the sky. A sparkling July sky, and, I didn't have to worry about being chased by a Chinese butterfly while firecrackers banged in and around my feet.
I hope you had a great 4th of July!
© 2022 Georgiann Foley