9:30 p.m. 7/3/20. View from the baseball field behind the Brighton High School at about the time when fireworks would have exploded back in the good ol’ days. [Photo: David Kramer]
This Fourth of July will see no fireworks in Brighton. Fortunately, Talker covered the fireworks at Meridian Centre Park off Winton Road in 2015, Celebrating diversity on the Fourth of July, in 2016 Celebrating the Fourth of July at the Game at the Corners and in 2018 First 4th of July fireworks for new African immigrants. SEE BELOW
As many know, the fireworks in Brighton used to be exploded in the open field behind the high school. As described in my July 2015 Democrat and Chronicle Blogitorial: “Some old time Brightonians do wax nostalgic for the days when the Fourth was held at the high school where — because you were that close to the pyrotechnics — ash sometimes fell from the sky unto your hair!”
While I was living in Rhode Island at the time, in 1998 the town of Brighton conducted what was then a one year experiment: moving the fireworks from the traditional center of town to Meridian Centre Park.
According to the article, due to increased crowds, the move was contemplated for several years. The move also gained steam after some “fireworks fallout” (presumably ash) landed on Brooklawn Drive, and someone complained.
In 1999 the fireworks returned to their proper home. But, as safety was apparently a growing concern, the fireworks permanently moved to Meridian in 2005.
Again, complaints about falling ash were an issue. After hot ash landed on a child, the town of Brighton received a notice of claim which is a precursor to a lawsuit.
Now I don’t want to be one of those yahoos who spouts off about how much better life was back in the good ol’ days before everyone spent their whole lives on their phones and didn’t file precursors to lawsuits over a little ash dust.
Not that I approve, of course, but back in the 1970s, in addition to the big display behind the high school, in the neighborhood streets, people — mostly males of all ages — blew up a wide assortment of munitions they had brought home from Canada. Bottle rockets placed in sewers gave off a particularly booming and echoing blast. Some people were no doubt reckless and fingers mangled.
At about 9 p.m., we kids started walking to the school. We passed old people in lawn chairs; if the evening was the slightest bit cool, old ladies wore shawls. At the fields, people — especially fashionable girls — wore glow in the dark bracelets and necklaces. One summer, my parents took us on an Italian tour. The gathered throng reminded me of the piazzas of Rome where the partying began at 10 p.m.
We tried to sit as close to the fireworks as possible. When the ash fell, our goal was to be as cavalier and nonchalant as we could when our hair received a slight dusting. Ash in your hair was a testament to personal fearlessness. Of course, falling ash is very dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.
Normally, activity sites would already be up by the 3rd. But, yesterday the fields at Meridian Centre Park were empty.
The steps that lead from the office park near Winton Place to the south side of the canal will be unused today.
Near where the fireworks are normally launched, I met Captain Rick Tracy of the Brighton Fire Department.
Captain Tracy said that in his time the fireworks at Meridian have always been conducted with no safety concerns. The grouped hired by the town of Brighton, the Young Explorers, are well trained and experienced. Tracy said that, in general, the 1970s had far more firework-related injuries compared with today.
In 2015, I spent much time at Meridian. By then, I was one of those old ladies who normally only watch the fireworks from their porch, wearing a shawl.
In 2016, I met people taking the “secret steps” leading from the office park near Winton Place to the south side of the canal. Technically, it is unlawful to watch the fireworks from the south side of the canal. But many do, probably the same types who got ash in their hair back in the 1970s.
In 2018, I met a group of recent immigrants from Africa for whom it was their first 4th of July fireworks display.
UPDATE: On July 4th at the recreational park next to The Hamilton near the Genesee Valley Parkway bicycle trail, I saw empty firework boxes that I arranged on a chess board. As someone who implicitly chastised tiger moms and other social killjoys for having fits about a little ash falling on a head, I should leap to the defense of the firework exploders. But I can’t, knowing the pain the fireworks are giving to people with PTSD. Yet, it’s not an easy “can’t.” If I nostalgically defend white suburbanites from the 1970s practicing a kind of self-expression, I should defend the people of color in urban neighborhoods also practicing a kind of self-expression.