Thirteen years ago, I was an intern in Washington, D.C. I sat on the National Mall and watched fireworks surround the Washington Monument, set to the 1812 Overture as played by the U.S. Navy Band. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I shared it with about a million other people.
Nine years ago, my husband and I found ourselves on the East Coast for a friend's wedding, so we planned a side stop in Boston for the Fourth. We arrived on the banks of the Charles River, and wedged ourselves into a spot at about 5 p.m. We sat there for four hours, and then the show started. The Oval was to our backs, an amazing fireworks show played out over the water, synchronized to music from the Boston Pops. We were shoulder-to-shoulder with about a million other people, while a reported 7 million more watched the same show on TV.
Last night, we pulled our truck into the parking lot for our small town's fireworks show. Our friends had saved us a spot next to their truck. We unloaded our chairs, snuggled up with our babies, and pulled out the sparklers. They ran around in the gravel, lightin' stuff on fire. Good little farm kids. My oldest spied a friend from school, and she came over to sit with us.The fireworks started. They were really good. We snuggled in closer, oohed and aahed. We caught up with our friends. The baby fell asleep.
When it was over – and it was a good show, a good half hour long – we tossed our chairs in the back of the truck, loaded up the kids and pulled out. There was some traffic. But there weren't a million people. There wasn't a Metro. Everyone was friendly. We didn't even need a local cop to direct traffic.
I don't know how many dollars are spent on the shows in D.C. and Boston, nor how much was spent on the show in our town. And I'd never knock the shows in the big city, because they are spectacular. If you've never been to one, you really should. Just for the experience.
But I sure wouldn't trade one of them for the show we had last night: good friends, snuggly kids, bag chairs out of the back of the pickup, and when it was all over, a quick drive home. Small towns may not have the high-dollar fireworks, but they've got an experience money can't buy.