Monday, July 4, 2011

A sparkler for the Fourth of July




I grew up in Southern California within earshot of Disneyland's famous summer fireworks display (at 9:35 sharp; you could set your watch by it). During college, I worked at the Park, and in the summer, I volunteered to help with crowd control so I could watch the show, which began after speakers all over the Park announced "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: Wherever you are in Disneyland, direct your attention to the sky over Sleeping Beauty's castle as Disneyland presents FANTASY IN THE SKY!"

I recited that announcement to Chris on Friday night, when we were at Cooper's Beach watching the annual Grucci fireworks show put on by the Southampton Fresh Air Home, a camp for physically challenged children. Hundreds of families were similarly ensconced in sand chairs with the remnants of their picnic dinners. Folks were selling glow sticks and a really cool version that looked more like a multicolored Star Wars weapon and had the capability of being turned off.

And then I saw, off to a far side of the darkening dunes, a sparkler. And oh, how it brought back memories. Remember Catherine Wheels, that your dad mounted to a fence? The fountains that changed colors? Or the whistling Piccolo Petes? Back when I was a kid, you could buy the fireworks by the each or in a number of different sized assortments. In my neighborhood, everyone brought their assortments out and set up at the end of the driveway, and we had an impromptu neighborhood fireworks display. I'd like to believe that this benign red-white-and-blue scene was enacted without incident all over America, but of course, it wasn't. Fireworks can be dangerous, and today, they are banned for sale in more than half of the states of the Union -- New York included. Which is why the presence of a sparkler on Cooper's Beach on Friday was so surprising...and wonderful.

Chris and I compared notes, and found that though we'd grown in up two different countries 5500 miles apart, fireworks were universal to us both, if not used for the same event. (Naturally, no one in the UK celebrates our Independence Day with a sparkler or a Piccolo Pete. But they DO break out the bottle rockets and fountains for November 5, Guy Fawkes Night, aka Bonfire Night .)

I never get tired of a good fireworks show, and Grucci's presentation for the Fresh Air Home was first class all the way. (As good as Disneyland's? Well...)

A couple more fireworks shows are on the calendar here in the Hamptons -- tonight, July 4, is the big show in Montauk on Umbrella Beach, always a great spectacle, as well as one in Westhampton Beach. A favorite "off holiday" show is the 31st annual Great Bonac Fireworks Show in Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton -- especially cool if you have access to a boat -- which takes place on Saturday, July 16. I hear the jury's still out on whether the East Hampton presentation will happen on Labor Day or not. This hugely popular July 4 show has been sidelined to Labor Day for the past few years due to the presence of nesting Piping Plovers on the dunes. (Piping plovers are endangered birds who lay their eggs in depressions in the sand.)

So tonight, we're giving our guests the inside scoop on where to go (and where to park!) in order to enjoy some sparklers in the sky.

But I'd still love some sparklers on the Fourth of July...maybe just one box?


Quote of the Day: I always have the most fun on the Fourth of July. You don't have to exchange any gifts. You just go to the beach and watch fireworks. It's always fun. -- James Lafferty

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