Downtown Journal: Fireworked Over

I was telling a friend, a Broadway aficionado, about the topic I planned for this column. He immediately thought of a song, although he couldn’t remember the title or the show, but he described how an older character sings of her new love. In the anthem, the character (he remembers actress Dorothy Loudon played her) proclaims she has known overwhelming passion, but now she wants a more modest, non-exhausting kind of love. She croons how she’s seen a lot of fireworks so she doesn’t need any more. Suddenly my friend is playing my song. If I never saw fireworks again, it would be too soon.

I have witnessed many Boston fireworks displays over the Harbor and on the Esplanade. I once gave the command – as the guest of David Mugar, Boston’s long-time July Fourth impresario – to start the fireworks show at the Boston Pops panoply at the Hatch Shell. Up on a rooftop at the corner of Beacon and Arlington Streets, I counted down and pressed a button. Far below me, the crowd erupted as the first sparks lifted in the sky.

Labor Day Fireworks, August 2018.

For whatever reason, this city seems entranced by fireworks. Many people love the displays and look forward to them all year long. For the fiery few, there will be fireworks galore on July 4, of course, and at other times throughout the summer. Even on Labor Day, fireworks are scheduled. And that doesn’t count all the private parties setting off amateur-hour fireworks exploding from the rooftops. Or the various North End feasts when a barrage of firecrackers opens and closes the carnivals. 

I was awakened earlier this spring by explosions. I panicked until I remembered a last-minute advisory from the city about a private wedding party’s fireworks, set to go off on the Harbor at 10 p.m. Actually, the display didn’t start until 10:20. And it was frightening. 

I know and love the USS Constitution’s cannon blast in the morning and evening. But the loud bangs of bangers now scare me. In a city of noise, the random explosions reverberate all the more. Yet, even in rural Maine where we vacation, I dread July 4th and all the amateur pyro technicians setting off explosives in the week leading up and including Independence Day. 

With so much gun violence bloodying this country, booms in the night seem unnecessarily frightening and harsh. Why celebrate explosions? The glares are fun to look at for a second before the sparkling ashes evaporate in the night. Of all the fireworks displays I’ve witnessed in my lifetime, the glows mush together in my memory. The rewards are evanescent.  

I’m with the dogs on this one. They panic at the sounds. Animal care organizations must always issue an advisory this time of year reminding people not to bring their pets to fireworks displays. Driven to extreme states of fear, dogs off the leash run away and are scared to return. 

The Toledo Mud Hens, unfortunately, didn’t get the memo. The Mud Hens, a minor league baseball team in Ohio, had a “Paws and Pints” night at the ballpark this year on the last weekend in May. Fans were encouraged to bring their dogs. Many people did and the ballpark was crowded with animals and their people. However, at the start of the festivities, the Mud Hens lit the fuse on a fireworks display. The explosions proved too much for an 18-month old Samoyed named Stella, attending “Paws and Pints” night with her owners, a newlywed couple. The young dog collapsed and died. 

David Briggs, a columnist for the Toledo Blade, wrote of the fans’ bifurcated bad reaction: “Either the Mud Hens were thoughtless buffoons for having an event that mixed dogs and the one thing many of them fear most. Or the grieving family who accepted the invitation were irresponsible pet owners.” In the end, Briggs decided no one really was at fault. The Mud Hens made a big donation in Stella’s name to a pet charity and will never again explode fireworks on “Paws and Pints” night. Meanwhile, the Samoyed’s owner told columnist Briggs, “There’s no one to blame. It was just a horrible accident.”

A horrible accident with fireworks in the middle of it.

Monica Collins lives on the Waterfront with husband Ben Alper and dog Dexter.

3 Replies to “Downtown Journal: Fireworked Over

    1. Fireworks over Boston Harbor in particular are beautiful and enjoyed by many. Friends and families line the shores of the North End, Seaport District, East Boston and Charlestown to view the moving displays. And still seen for miles beyond. Meals have been enjoyed at local restaurants – perhaps even some gelato and likely a few glasses of wine. Some families even spend the night at a local hotel. So perhaps it is a bit much for the wedding fireworks displays of late and I do get your point regarding the noise. However fireworks over Boston Harbor and the Charles River are truly special events. Events that should not be taken for granted – not by the city, the community or the local merchants.

  1. sounds like a suburbanite who moved into the city and is shocked, just shocked, there are traditional events and a bit of noise. And now we’re all expected to conform to your Newton cul-de-sac way of life. Sorry, we are Bostonians, we have traditions, some are loud, that’s what makes us who we are. feel free to take your elitist attitudes and go back to the burbs.

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