For many, the Fourth of July ranks as one of their favorite holidays and for manifold reasons. Besides the timing of the labor-free day, smack dab in the middle of our lemonade-sipping, grill-lighting summer season, many appreciate any holiday when no gift-giving gets in the way of just enjoying gathering with loved ones.
For many, though, among the multiple reasons to love the Fourth of July, one is paramount, and it comes in sudden pyrotechnic bursts of reds, whites, blues and greens across the sky, followed by the lingering acridity that comes from black and flash powders.
As for my own youthful experiences with fireworks and the Fourth, I think, like most kids, I had a pretty strong fascination. Of course, I was never allowed to dabble in any firework more sophisticated than the annual snappers, those little balls that popped when we threw them on the sidewalk, and sparklers, which, once upon a time taught a young boy that the end of one stayed quite hot for quite some time after the red glow dissipated. It was a lesson I only had to learn once.
When it came to fireworks shows, mine were at Lost Creek Golf Club, where my family belonged. While my visits were far less frequent than my father and sister Joan, so infected were they by the golfing bug, and my mother, who used the club as a main social outlet, I always looked forward to going to see the Fourth’s fireworks.
The launch zone was close to the tee box on the par-five finishing hole. While most of the adults preferred sitting in more civilized fashion in chairs up on the concrete porch outside the clubhouse, we kids gathered on blankets and beach towels around the green and sand trap for the show. While the shows seemed to last a long time, I doubt they exceeded a half-hour, although quite suitable given my juvenile attention span.
As time passed, to be honest, my interest in fireworks waned some. I suppose I took them for granted when I saw them for multiple summers at the Star Spangled Spectacular at Faurot Park. As a summer seasonal employee in the playground division, that was a long work day for me.
Since that phase of my life ended just after we ushered in the new century, I don’t go to any extraordinary measures to see the local shows.
In Ohio, the general feeling of the Department of Health is that detonations of fireworks are best left in the hands of the experts. Each year, thousands wind up in the emergency rooms, and, according to the DOH’s website, there are more reported fires on the Fourth than any other calendar day, with fireworks accounting for every two out of five.
Despite the inherent dangers of fireworks, so many are enticed to purchase and use them each early July. As for the quirky legal ramifications, you’d better have a lot of time on your hands if you want to read the Ohio Revised Code’s section on fireworks. Fortunately, Sandy Mitchell, who contributes to the website About Travel, simplifies the do’s and don’t’s in her article “Making Sense of Ohio’s Fireworks Laws.”
According to Mitchell, Ohio has one of the nation’s most prohibitive fireworks laws in the country with some fireworks legal to buy and set off in the state, some legal to buy but not set off in Ohio without an exhibitor’s license and some totally illegal to purchase unless you have a valid exhibitor’s license no matter where you set them off.
The absurdity heightens when I see the fireworks outlets, especially the one with the big Uncle Sam a mile or so from the Indiana line that I pass when going to Fort Wayne, Indiana, for business. There, as in other Ohio outlets, as long as you are 18 or older, you can purchase firecrackers, bottle rockets, roman candles and fountains, but you’re supposed to tacitly agree that you’ll leave Ohio with the fireworks within 48 hours. For the first time this year, consumers weren’t expected actually to sign off on said promise, one aptly nicknamed the Liar’s Law.
Granted, for breaching the law, technically a first-degree misdemeanor that someone once thought should carry a $1,000 fine and earn the transgressor a six-month stay in the gray-bar hotel, rarely do I ever hear of anyone arrested, which kind of places it in the jaywalking category.
Because their origin can be traced back to the seventh century in China when they were thought to ward off evil spirits and promote good luck, fireworks will, no doubt, return yet again next July to dazzle the eye, hurt the ears and fill the nostrils with the sweet aroma of powder.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.