[Across from Meridian Centre Park, 4th of July, 2018]
As seen in Celebrating the Fourth of July at the Game at the Corners. And much more. (BELOW), for many years now I watch the 4th of July fireworks on the south side of the canal across from Meridian Centre Park in Brighton.
The spot is relatively unknown and can be difficult to reach. A few hardy souls park in the nearby office park and — flashlights necessary — march up a series of wooden steps that end at the canal path.
Technically, that section of the trail is private property and not open to the public. (Nor can people anchor or dredge). But, there is only one small sign at the Edgewood entrance near lock 33 saying pedestrians and bicycles are prohibited. In the many years I have used that trail I’ve never heard or seen of the prohibition enforced. So we were safe.
Usually only two dozen people are on the south side. But for those two dozen, the location is extraordinary. You can sit right across from the staging ground on the opposite side of the canal. One year, I went to the water’s edge for what felt like an out of body experience with ash trickling down into the illuminated canal.
This year’s trek was especially memorable. In the office park where many had driven, sitting on lawn chairs outside their vehicles, I overheard a group of people mention the path and the wooden steps, but they didn’t know how to find them amid the cattail. I quickly offered to show them the way. With only a single flashlight, we ascended.
On the canal path, I learned the backstory. The woman to the far right in the group picture knew the people who had immigrated from Africa four or five years ago and lived in Rochester.
She asked what they were doing for the 4th of July. The people — comprised of members of a several families — had only a vague understanding of the meaning of the holiday. The woman explained the American revolution and the tradition of fireworks. The families had never actually gone to a display up close.
The woman’s husband — who was waiting for them on the canal path — works in the office park and uses the wooden steps to reach the path for lunchtime walks. It was only by good fortune that I overheard their conversation and that I knew where was the entrance hidden in cattails.
The trek was worth it as the families oohed and ahhed and captured the moment on their cell phone cameras.
July 5hth, 2016
We determined the Game at the Corners needed some photo journalist polish. So after a careful review of her montage on a school trip to Spain, Shadi was selected.
Shadi came to the July 4th game, the second half of our so-called “Old Man’s Holiday Doubleheader” (also held on Memorial and Labor Days). A colorful but misleading name as our players span the generations.
Alas, Shadi knows nothing about baseball.
When she saw me pitching underhand with an arch, she said I looked girlie and couldn’t I throw it harder and straighter. When I hit the ball well but made out, Shadi barked, what’s this about not getting to first base!
And how did I let that fly ball bounce in front of me in the infield? To see if she could do better, I told her to “take an at bat,” but she didn’t know what one is.
But Shadi did cheer when I hit a “home run” that was really a triple, but like I said, Shadi doesn’t know baseball. Nonetheless, Shadi has challenged “the Bad Boys of Summer” to a game against the school marms at her new school.
Shadi’s montage missed some of the action: when I foolishly called off Zev the third baseman on the infield pop up, when Raff tagged me after overrunning second base, when Neil pulled the hidden ball trick on me at third, and when an alligator slinked out of the creek and bit off Blake’s tongue.
The Sunday the 3rd game went to a nail biting extra inning.
Yesterday’s came to resemble the oft-considered greatest game in American baseball history, the 1985 July 4-5th Rick Camp Fireworks game in Atlanta, described by then Braves’ announcer Jon Sterling as “the absolutely nuttiest in the history of baseball.”
After several rain delays — and vicissitudes ranging from Keith Hernandez hitting for the cycle, Mets’ manager Davey Johnson’s appeal and multiple ejections — at 3:30 a.m., Atlanta reliever Rick Camp — an .060 hitter — tied the game with a two out home run in the bottom of the 18th. In the top of the 19th, Camp gave up 5 runs.
But in the bottom of the inning, the Braves rallied for two runs. And there stood Camp, the tying run at the plate with two out, stretching human credulity to its limits. But Ron Darling struck him out. And at precisely 4:01 a.m. fireworks exploded above Atlanta Fulton County Stadium.
In our July 4th rendition, Team 1 was trailing by over 10 runs in the last inning. But the usually light hitting Bobry sparked a rally with a double (that hit the heel of my glove). Then Rogoshefsky laced a clever opposite field single. And Esan didn’t let a dribbler go foul that would have ended things.
There stood Bobry as the tying run — as had Camp 31 years earlier — with two outs. But Bobry grounded out. And fireworks exploded above the field between the Brighton High and Middle Schools.
Our game was not the only athletic event in town. Shadi captured me crossing the finish line at the morning’s Brighton Chamber of Commerce 5K, assured by Fleet Feet’s Earl Harrington I had not finished last.
That place belongs to Webster’s Shane Grant. A great sport, Shane walks a 5K every weekend. An admitted “slow walker,” Shane’s goal this summer is finish last in every competition. Ambitious, but Shane says she’s totally up to the challenge.
Happily, our worked up appetite was satisfied at the Town of Brighton Pancake Breakfast served in the Brighton High School cafeteria.
Shadi would leave the game at 10:30 to cover the Brighton Chamber of Commerce Memorial Award Ceremony at the Twelve Corners Memorial Park.
Shadi could see the love and admiration Marion’s family — and all of Brighton — felt for Marion who devoted her career and life to public service. Marion’s daughter, Debbie Brown Drawe is a Penfield county legislator. Marion’s husband, Allan, lives in Brighton.
While Shadi occasionally comes to the 12 Corner’s Starbucks and even to play her violin in the park gazebo, she saw more what the town has to offer — just over the line from her city apartment on Monroe.
Before the fireworks, I met the employees of Young Explosives who work the display set on the canal path behind Meridian Park. The team leader explained the extensive training and certifications they receive: from state authorities to the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
For many at Young, running the fireworks display is a labor of love. One man traces his interest back to boyhood. In ’74 or ’75, the Big Booms of the fireworks at the Italian Festival at Eyer Park in East Rochester captured his imagination for life.
Walking through the festivities, I was reminded again of the diversity of Brighton spread before me — both in its inhabitants and those drawn from all over for the fun and fireworks.
At sunset, I found again the “secret” spot where I watch the fireworks. About 5 years ago, I discovered the best place to see and hear the display is on the other side of the canal.
Then more people came to the now not so secret spot on the trail, sitting in lawn chairs or blankets and lighting roman candles. As the festivities have grown in popularity, now some people park on the path near the Clinton Bridge.
Tonight about 20 souls climbed the wooden stairs to the path along the other side of the canal.
Though I alone ventured to the spot directly across from the fireworks staging area. Where ash floated through the smell of acrid smoke into the canal’s water. And the banging sky looked as the universe must have in its first moments of creation.
As a member of the Unite Rochester blog, I know well of the “Two Rochesters.” By that, I think of our too segregated community in which different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups too often live separated lives. At least for one night, however, last Saturday on July 4th in Meridian Centre Park in Brighton, I had a vision of another Rochester.
Over the last few years, the fireworks display at Meridian is arguably the most popular in Monroe County, drawing crowds between 10 – 15 thousand. While many people are from Brighton, the evening attracts from all over. Meridian is relatively centrally located, parking is ample, traffic flow is good, and the SkyCoasters are a hit. (Although, old time Brightonians do wax nostalgic for the days when the 4th was held at the High School where — because you were that close to the pyrotechnics — ash sometimes fell from the sky onto your hair!)
Walking around the Park, I happily encountered diversity of all stripes. People from all backgrounds, mingling, playing carnival games, drinking a little, and dancing next to the American flag as the SkyCoasters entertained. I saw two students I know from the Frederick Douglass schools, always surprised that teachers exist outside the classroom.
This week, I had the chance to talk with Brighton Town Supervisor Bill Moehle. As we reflected upon the 4that Meridian, we both agreed the event mirrored how, over the last decade or so, Brighton is increasingly becoming the most diverse town in Monroe County. And that’s a good thing.
As Moehle rightly points out, “diversity” can be hard to define. Demographically, Henrietta and Gates have a higher percentage of African-American residents. At the same time, Brighton is home to many from the Indian, Asian, West African, Muslim (there is a mosque on Westfall Road) and LGBT communities. And, historically, Brighton has had a large Jewish population, including many immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Go watch soccer games any evening at Buckland Park and you will hear a cacophony of languages.
Perhaps as importantly, Brighton is diverse socio-economically. Starter and smaller homes can be found in most neighborhoods. Multi-family apartments line Westfall Road, Elmwood and parts of Monroe Avenues. As Moehle say, Brighton is not a town of mansions, nor wants to be.
Fundamentally, Moehle — and myself — see Brighton as a positive example of how diversity works and can generate more diversity. As with every town, Brighton has its challenges, including poverty. Brighton food pantries serve many in distress.
But if the “Two Rochesters” are a problem, the “new” Brighton can be part of the solution.