July 04, 2016
The Fourth, fireworks and funnel cakes
I’ve long loved fireworks shows of all sizes, kinds and locations. That includes displays in big cities, usually with the “1812 Overture” or similar musical accompaniment (St. Louis’, my the Arch on the Mississippi is great) through suburbs trying to offer convenient alternatives to downtown cities, to freestanding small towns, as where I live now.
That said, one Founding Father anticipated them, along with many other such events. He even encouraged them.
"It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other,” John Adams told his wife, Abigail.
Oops, though. I forgot to tell you he was talking about July 2, not 4.
To be technical, that’s the day the Continental Congress voted its 13 member colonies to be independent from Britain. Two days late, on the Fourth, it voted to accept a Declaration of why it had declared independence, as written by Thomas Jefferson, edited by John Adams and the three other members of the five-man authorial committee along with Jefferson, then edited further by Congress meeting as a whole. (Oh, and John Hancock, as president of the Continental Congress, was likely the only person to sign it on July 4, 1776. Others didn't even start signing for another month.
Anyway, Trivial Pursuit angles aside, Adams certainly got it right. And he’s had it right for 240 years since. And, he didn’t stop with “bonfires and illuminations” or the “pomp and parade” part. Note the “shows, games, sports.” I think Adams would have been just fine at many a small-town Fourth of July event. How about a funnel cake for Mr. Adams?
On fireworks, I like them nice and visible, as well as nice and audible. That too, comes from personal background. What else would you expect from a junior pyromaniac who started a fire (unintentionally) in his family’s kitchen wastebasket when he was 4 years old? That was followed by trying to burn down the cottonwood tree in the backyard at our next house about six years later.
Adapted from a newspaper column.