I hate fireworks. I also hate cherry pie, Nascar, football, and Ronald Reagan. I’m just kidding. I actually like President Reagen. Seriously though, I loathe fireworks. We live in a neighborhood where the fireworks are not only abundant, but they are also loud. The pyrotechnic displays usually start around 6:00 p.m. and last until 3:00 a.m. and from about 10:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m. the fireworks are constant. The fireworks around our house come with deep echoing explosions that shake the windows, small popping noises and huge booms. It’s what I imagine a warzone sounds like.
While the enthusiasm our neighbors possess for the celebration of our nation’s birth is admirable, it’s also terrifying when it’s interpreted through incredibly dangerous fireworks at 3:00 a.m., especially because I’m confident they are inebriated beyond the point of safety. At 12:30 a.m. this morning I woke Mr. MVP up after a firework fell in the tree above our house. I could hear it hit the branches and then finally our roof and I was laying in bed wondering if our house was going to catch on fire. Mr. MVP was half asleep when he assured me that our house could catch fire just as fast as any other house in the neighborhood. I spent the rest of the night going up and down the stairs checking for signs of firework damage and hoping that our neighbors would start to aim towards the lake.
So, how did all this firework nonsense start? Fireworks have been celebrating our independence since John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife that the signing of the Declaration of Independence should be a “great anniversary Festival” and “solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” This was on July 3, 1776, and is apparently why my neighbors start their fireworks so early. If only Mrs. Adams hadn’t shared that letter.
After a year of these displays the government got involved and Congress joined in the fun. This was approximately 50 guys from the thirteen original colonies who met in Philadelphia. Like all things that are regulated by the government, they decided that “at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks, which began and concluded with thirteen rockets on the commons.” I wonder how I could get my neighbors to follow these rules and only have 13 fireworks per night?
Over the next 100 years fireworks displays started to become more advanced and spread from Boston to New York, which was really far at that time considering we were just 13 colonies. Popular fireworks themes were bells and flags, and cities tried to outdo each other with bigger and more elaborate shows. Pyrotechnics were becoming more dangerous because anyone could buy them, including children.
The first rules that were passed about July 4th celebrations came from the American Medical Association in about 1901 and were called Safe and Sane Celebration and these were effective. Celebrations before JAMA stepped in were an embarrassment to our Red, White and Blue. I could describe it, but this poster sums it up nicely:
I told you. After Safe and Sane there were only reports of five little boys carrying guns and injuries were down to 32. Starting in the 1930’s firework displays slowed down due to law enforcement and economic issues. Gradually many states developed their own laws and some say that these individual regulations cause more injuries because consumers are trying to be sneaky and don’t read the directions. Personally I think a mix of alcohol and pure ignorance is what causes a majority of the accidents in most adults and teenagers.
Today fireworks are illegal in New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Massachusetts. Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Vermont have restricted laws and everyone else has pretty much free reign. Michigan, where Team VP lives used to be a firework free state and it was fantastic. Unless there was a professional license involved no fireworks could legally leave the ground. In 2012 that ban was overturned and the free-for-all that ensued has been ridiculous. Our city and neighboring cities actually instated emergency legislation on June 26, 2013, to deal with the noise that comes from late night fireworks. Portage is being very kind to its resident offenders with a fine of only $100. Kalamazoo set the price at $500, but I wonder how often they actually ticket for fireworks.
Today, on July 5th, you would think the fireworks would be done for the season, but they are probably only halfway done. Tonight as I’m laying awake thinking about what I’ll save first if our house catches on fire and silently cursing my drunk neighbors I’ll travel in time back to the days of the Safe and Sane 4th of July with parades and picnics. There won’t be any booms, explosions or blasts and I will sleep soundly.