This year is the first time we've been at this address on the 4th of July. I don't know if we will ever be anywhere else again.
The festivities actually go on for several nights. We are right on the edge of the urban growth boundary (a rather complicated and controversial law put into place in the late 70's in Oregon to help limit urban sprawl), so there is an enormous field about a block north of us. Until this weekend, I thought the field was only useful for the luscious free blackberries growing on the borders that we harvest there each summer. It turns out that the field is also the venue of a local rodeo over the 4th of July weekend each year. The rodeo runs Thursday-Sunday and each night there are fireworks at about 10 pm.
A lot of people don't like to pay to get into the rodeo, but they like to watch the fireworks, which are always the biggest the night of the 4th. Naturally, if you want to see the fireworks, our neighborhood is the best spot for that.
My neighbors take this seriously, and assume the responsibility to entertain all of the visitors to our neck of the woods with a pre-fireworks show. The festivities kicked off at about 7 pm, when our neighbor a few houses up hosted the annual Firework Derby. Each participant builds a car and then powers it with any firework legally sold in Oregon. The starting line is sidewalk chalked onto the street and cars are pitted against one another. Measurements are taken, also written in chalk on the street and a winner declared. There is no race-off as most of the entered cars go down in flames. One car went at least 20 feet, but in circles, parallel to the starting line, and even backwards and ended up with a score of about 15 inches.
The crazy part? There were few actual kids entered in the contest. It was mostly adults. Drinking adults. The guy in charge is actually one of the sons of a neighbor; he started the tradition nearly 10 years ago in high school and still comes back every 4th of July to run the Derby. We found out too late to make an entry . . . . but next year! Watch out.
We got the kids in their jammies and put the baby to bed; I told Jedi and Padawan that I'd take them on a walk around the block and if the big fireworks started we would stop to watch. In the two hours we'd been in the house, our neighborhood had transformed itself into the pyromaniac's Mecca. Cars lined both sides of our entire loop, with lawn chairs on each driveway. There were barbecues going on at every other house, with huge fireworks being exploded at every third or fourth house. And.I.Mean.Huge. I've never seen anything like it: kids running with wild abandon through the streets with sparklers, boys no bigger than Jedi lighting and throwing firecrackers, Roman candles shooting 20 feet in the air, huge cases of launch-fireworks igniting one after another fifty feet in the air sending sparks all the way to the ground, teenagers tossing used fireworks into a flaming pile in the gutter, heedless of whether there might still be explosive energy left inside, and everywhere, everywhere, plenty of beer flowing.
We made our way around the block and walked down a cul-de-sac to visit one of Jedi's friends from school who looked like he was outside with his family. Their back yard backs right up to the field and they invited us back just as the rodeo-fireworks were starting. As we walked past their gutter, there was a gigantic pile of spent fireworks, what must have been hundreds of dollars, worth and the acrid smell of sulfur in a thick cloud of smoke. Friend's mom gave all the kids glow-stick necklaces and bracelets, so that we could find them in the dark as we tramped through the woods into the stubbled field.
After walking through the Gauntlet, the rodeo fireworks were a bit anti-climatic, truthfully. We dragged our way home in the dark to the final strains of God Bless America, exhausted, but with a renewed sense of determination. Our house is at the street's entrance. We may have a responsibility to the greater good next year. . . . to get visitors to the Cul-de-Sac of Fire of to a good start. There will be plenty to live up to. It was 10:30 when we got home, and I think some of our neighbors were just getting started.
So what cool things does your neighborhood do together? Or better yet, did you ever do something really stupid while you were drinking? You are welcome to post anonymously on the second. ;)