I live in a small community on the outskirts of Baltimore by the name of Catonsville. It is a relatively old (almost 200 years), stable little burg that possesses a small town feel, despite the fact that it butts up against the western edge of Baltimore City. On the other side Catonsville borders Patapsco State Park, so that both limits the south westward expansion and helps give the location its semi-rural character.
Every year we have a Fourth of July parade and fireworks display. I don’t know how long this tradition has been going on but I have celebrated it with my neighbors for almost 45 years. The parade ebbs and flows, some years it is better than others, but this year it was important enough that both of our Senators and the Governor attended, walking the route and shaking hands. The fireworks, however, are always very special, and the last three years (including tonight) they have been most exceptional. Visiting friends who have seen fireworks all over the world tell me ours is the best fireworks experience, both presentation and immediacy, that they have ever seen. I have to agree, even if I live here, which makes me a tad prejudiced.
Communities do different things well. We do fireworks on the Fourth. This year they spent about $60,000 on the show and it was worth every penny. Over 10,000 people attend the display that is shot off from the high school baseball fields and they fill every nook and cranny within reasonable sight lines. Our traditional location is on the center of an embankment about 150 yards directly in front of the firing line. I commented to a new attendee to our 10X12 foot tarp, which we spread out two days before, that this experience was similar to our going to see Spiderman the night before on a 70 foot screen and sitting in the center of the stadium seating theater, a perfect viewing situation. The fireworks experience is similar. Leaning back in our low reclining beach chairs on that soft incline we have a perfect view as the display mushrooms and cascades across the sky 150 to300 feet above our head. The explosions completely fill our vision of the night sky, with some elaborate sequences bringing such a succession of whoops from the gathered throng that it sends a chill down your spine.
I have been to many other fireworks, including those in Washington D.C. (even the Bicentennial display on the Mall). All those other displays I attended were like watching that Spiderman movie on a TV set across the room, small and distant. My small towns are total immersion fireworks and if any of you are near Baltimore next year on the weekend of the Fourth of July, I invite you to join us on our tarp for a cold drink and the world’s best fireworks experience. If necessary I can get a bigger tarp and few more Cokes and beers in the cooler.