A Blast on the Fourth

I would like to say that my choice of where to live has been motivated by work and family, but you could make a case that fireworks factored in.

Fourth of July is my favorite holiday. From the time I was a kid, I woke up every July 4 knowing it was going to be a great day. Finding something red, white and blue to wear in the parade to march to the kiddie fair in the neighborhood park; deciding whether it was worth standing in line for what felt like half a day but was probably half an hour for a pony ride (it always was worth the wait); selecting a flavor of sno-cone, the only time of year they were served.

And at night, coming back to the park with parents and a blanket to lie on the grass and watch the fireworks that were directly overhead. Even getting a hot ash in my eye one year didn’t take away from the thrill of the noise, the colors and the distinctive smell.

Then I moved to New York, where Macy’s must have poured half its annual profits into fireworks. Set off from barges spread over a few miles in the East River, the fireworks could be seen from all five boroughs.

And now Chapel Hill. Travel & Leisure Magazine has ranked Chapel Hill the 10th best place in the country for fireworks. Some 30,000 people squeezed together on metal benches in Kenan Stadium on a sultry Tuesday night to watch the display. This year was particularly good and included some new kinds of zingy, fizzly things that zipped and crackled through the air. And you felt the noise as much as you heard it.

Our fun comes at no small cost, though. This year’s budget for the event was $58,120. That includes paying the pyrotechnic vendor and the band, renting the stadium and stage, laying a protective cover on the artificial turf, and hiring EMS to be at the ready.

One year during the recent recession, the town manager’s budget eliminated the fireworks display. Then-council member Matt Czajkowski took up the cause and got the celebration reinstated, so we have not missed a one.

A word of thanks, too, for the town employees who worked the event — the police officers and firefighters who not only sweltered in their gear but had to pay attention to our safety rather than looking up at the fireworks.

The event does not charge an admission fee, but donations are gladly accepted. THis year, event-goers donated nearly $21,000. If you did not have any cash on hand to toss in the barrel at the entrance gates on July 4, you still can contribute. The Friends of Chapel Hill Parks, Recreation & Greenways welcomes your tax-deductible donation, either online at https://friendschparksrec.org/support/ or via check payable to Friends of Chapel Hill Parks, Recreation & Greenways and mailed to: Friends of Chapel Hill Parks, Recreation & Greenways, c/o Department of Parks & Recreation, 200 Plant Road, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27514.

I’m already looking forward to next year.
— Nancy Oates

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