I am of the very firm opinion that summer’s best days fall between Memorial Day weekend and Independence Day. Indeed, the Fourth of July is both the climax and beginning of the end of Summer. I have often found myself on a mid-August day thinking, “I can’t believe the Fourth of July was six weeks ago”. So, this year, as usual, I was tremendously excited by the holiday, and well aware that it might be one of the most exciting weekends of the whole summer. Little did I know!
In Gainesville, 3 July is a big day. Since so many people are out of town in the summer, and those who are left often travel, the big fireworks display is held a day early. Two years ago, in the midst of huge budget cuts, it was canceled, and only saved at the last minute by an anonymous donor who ponied up so everyone could enjoy a spectacle. Last year, though, no savior came forth, and the town was silent and dark. Since fireworks were scheduled to return this year, there was excitement all over town, and especially in my heart.
In the afternoon we were invited to a pool party out in the country near Newberry. We drove way out of Gainesville before heading north on a narrow two-lane road, and finally an unmarked dirt road. Posted signs led us to the party. All the derby girls were there, many with their significant others, and some even brought their children. It was a huge crowd.
Everyone brought some food or drink. Since the party had a luau theme I took Hawaiian Punch. Sara made Jell-O shots–dozens of them–and they were wildly popular. As time went on the girls went from eating them individually, to eating them in unison, and finally to feeding them to one another. Eventually though, it turned into a game of catch, albeit with limited success. Everyone seemed to enjoy all the food.
The weather was hot, of course, but mostly overcast. It seemed as though it might rain at any time, and for a little while it did sprinkle a bit, but not for long. And whatever rain and occasional thunder there was didn’t keep anyone from swimming in the pool. At one point there were twenty-five people in the water. I was more excited about the homemade slip and slide. Kaylen brought plastic sheeting and baby shampoo, and I helped lay out and spray down the plastic. I hadn’t been on a slip and/or slide in years and I was really looking forward to it. It was fun, but the ground where we set it up–the only place available–wasn’t especially soft or smooth. As you slid you could feel every bump. But a lot of people tried it out, and the kids loved it especially.
By the late afternoon it seemed like the storm clouds were gathering in the east, and with the Jell-O shots depleted people began to depart. As we made it into town the sky was black. We met up with Robin, Sarah Jean, and Kerri back at Kerri’s place.
The fireworks on campus begin at 9:30, and we hoped to get there before nine o’clock to find a good place on Flavet Field to set up our blanket. Two years ago, at the last Fanfares and Fireworks, we had all met up and enjoyed the music and fireworks together. This time, though, the rain that persisted well into the early evening meant that the field would be wet, so we also had some plastic to put beneath the blanket. We arrived on campus shortly after 8:30, and I hoped that the rain was done for good. But the storms that afternoon were not like the typical summer storms that come in swiftly, rain violently for an hour, then move on leaving clear skies. This storm rained slow and steady for hours, not looking to let up. We parked initially behind Weil Hall, but as no other cars were parked there, we thought perhaps other people knew something we didn’t, namely that the fireworks had been postponed due to rain. The radio provided no information at all. So we drove over toward the the Keys Complex across from McKethan Stadium where we found a police officer directing traffic. She told us that no decision would be made until after nine o’clock. So we drove back and parked again, and began walking. But by the time we reached the corner of Gale Lemerand and Stadium Road the skies opened up again, and it began raining so hard that it was nearly impossible to see.
It was not quite nine o’clock, but the weather was so bad that all of us–including me–thought there was no way they could put on a fireworks display. We decided then and there to cut our losses and go home. Of all people, I am the most in love with fireworks and would be the last to be convinced that they might be canceled, but I saw no way that they could go on in that weather, and I did not doubt my conclusion for a moment. On the way back to the car, as the deluge reached absurd proportions, we covered ourselves with whatever tarps and blankets we had. When we reached our vehicle and I fumbled for the car keys, Kerri stood with her arms akimbo and asked me to take her picture. I snapped a quick photograph, which involved the camera experiencing no more than three or four seconds of direct exposure to the elements, but that turned out to be a bad idea. The picture you see here was the last my Nikon D70 would ever take.
The next morning I awoke and hung my flag on the house outside. I read the newspaper which contained the shocking news that the fireworks display had, in fact, gone off as planned, though with a slight delay. I couldn’t believe it. Evidently there had been a brief window just before ten o’clock in which the rain subsided and they could uncover the pyrotechnic machinery. I was, of course, sorry that I missed the fireworks, but I couldn’t feel sad about it. The rain the night before had been so extreme that my very best judgment concluded fireworks were impossible. I had not been talked into giving up, nor had I felt there was even a small chance. In any case, I was actually glad that the few intrepid souls who had braved the weather were rewarded for their efforts. They deserved it.
We had been invited back to Matt and Kerri’s house for barbecue and fun that evening. Matt had kindly provided IBC cream soda again, which was a delightful treat. I didn’t eat anything, but there was a whole buffet laid out, and, if I recall, everyone brought something. Sarah Jean was there, of course, and Kat and Harris came, too. After dark we set off our own cheap fireworks. Sarah Jean made the most ghetto pyrotechnic display I’d ever seen, which consisted of a flaming black plastic trash bag hanging from a branch that dripped boiling liquid plastic onto the ground as the fire burned its way up the length of the bag. We all had sparklers, and Kaylen brought some more impressive Roman candles and bottle rockets and such. We did all of this in Matt and Kerri’s front yard along Northeast Ninth Street. My camera was broken, so I was sad to only be able to capture the goings on with my cellphone camera, but that’s all I got.
Back inside the house we played the original Super Mario Bros. on Nintendo, and it was great. I had never had that game, which was included with each Nintendo game console, because my system came with a book instead. So I never got good at Super Mario, either. That hasn’t changed. Harris was expert. We had a lot of fun.
And that was Independence Day 2010.
Filed under: Friends, Gainesville, Meteorology, Special Occasions on September 19th, 2010 | No Comments »