My friend texts me, “What time do things start at Lincoln Park?”
I text back.
It usually starts around 10 pm– the good part, that is.
But really, the show at Lincoln Park takes up the whole evening; even before the sun is considering setting, thousands of people mill about the park watching a brave few set off what at first are a few modest displays of fireworks. The ones that you can buy legally at the Safeway down on 14th, Kentucky and D Streets, SE, tend to be the first to burn through. (Incidentally, if you are wondering what is legal and what is not, The Hill is Home has a post filling you in.)
And then come the big boys: hundreds upon hundreds of mostly illegal fireworks are magically produced and even more magically set off, mainly from close to Mr. Lincoln’s statue, shimmering in the night and amazing neighbors and visitors alike.
Did I mention they are illegal? Because nary a cop comes around to tell anyone anything, not that they don’t have better things to do on a July Fourth, like busting people walking around with open containers, perhaps. And really, who would want to be the one to have to spoil this impromptu celebration? It’s 10:15 pm, and fire trucks, engines and EMS swirl around the park with sirens blasting– clearly not everyone is having a safe Fourth of July. A missed photo-opportunity: an engine speeds down East Capitol Street and makes a slight right onto Massachusetts Avenue, American flag billowing in its own wake and lit up by the red of the brake lights.
The display at Lincoln Park picks up more steam. Every time you think they can’t possibly keep up the pace or intensity of the flying rockets above and below, the explosions intensify tenfold. People come and go, but the fireworks stay and multiply: you can see them cropping up like wildflowers all over the low skyline, being set off by daredevilish and enterprising souls who must have dropped large sums of money for the enjoyment of us all. The show lasts full-force until about 11:45, only to be followed by a couple of hours of random blasts from around the neighborhood that keep small animals and the inebriated in check.
This is a Capital Fourth, indeed. Happy birthday, America!
This post appeared originally on July 5th 2010 in the online edition of the Examiner.