A fireworks community

There might not be a synchronized Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” involved, but we might be found at one of the area’s Fourth of July fireworks celebrations.

The celebration calls for a trip across the town of Hale to Pleasantville, for sure.

I’ve always been amazed how those celebrations pull together people in even the smallest communities. There might be things about the Fourth of July and the signing of the Declaration of Independence about which historians might have some disagreements, but there’s little to disagree about when it comes to how people are drawn to those events.

Dee and I kicked around that phenomenon a bit over the years, especially as we’ve sat patiently waiting while dusk settled in and other activities ended so the annual fireworks could begin.

I figured many years ago that I’d eventually give up on the excitement of those Fourth of July oooohs and aaaahs. It never occurred to me that my parents might be making the 10-mile drive from our Veefkind farm and into town because they wanted to see the fireworks – me believing they were doing favors for me and my siblings.

There were some Fourth of July fireworks displays around the nation that impressed me as a young adult and, when I had children of my own, I figured their attendance was a good enough excuse for me to hear the booms and bangs and to see the sky lighted with sparkling and twinkling colors. It also seemed like a good excuse to make a massive bag full of popcorn and sit with them on blankets in parks to watch their eyes light up with amazement about the display, always making that popcorn taste a little better.

Our children all have grown, so I’m out of excuses. I have to admit that we go to them because I like to go to them, and I’m fairly sure Dee also likes to go.

We probably will again go this year, likely fighting some Wisconsin summer humidity, mosquitoes and – if we choose to watch it from the car – occasionally foggy windshield glass. We might be the folks in one of the cars, listening to old-time radio shows in the moments before the fireworks start.

And, though the pure child-at-heart enjoyment of seeing the fireworks together is a good enough reason for our continued attendance, it will be a time for community bonding in unspoken ways folks in rural communities best understand.

People who live in rural communities like their special mixes of quiet solitude while enjoying an occasional boom of excitement. Fireworks, as I think about it, represent everything about the rural countryside.

We like having neighbors while watching the fireworks, but manage to withdraw into our own small worlds of personal peace, metaphorically and physically. We know our neighbors are out there somewhere in the darkness, and we’re fine with that – but don’t mind the occasional burst of light to remind us where that they’re not far away.

We like the moments of silence, the neighbors and sky hushed in anticipation of what’s to come and then sharing smiles and those oooohs and aaaahs when the moments of noisy excitement arrive.

There’s little talk when the fireworks end and people go to their homes in small towns and countryside. Maybe that’s because of fatigue, fireworks’ grand finales generally being later than the normal bedtimes for us folks rising to the top of the age-scale. But I also like to think there’s silence because the fireworks already said all that needed to be said.

When people in the rural communities such as those in our northern Driftless Area leave a fireworks show, they’ve shared in few words, reactions, and knowing smiles and head nods that we’re all in this thing together.

The people leaving our area’s Fourth of July fireworks displays will go back to their business of slogging through rural life in each person’s unique way. But for those few minutes all that is different among us is ignored and neighbors become community.

Maybe we’ll see you, our community, somewhere at dusk on the Fourth of July; maybe in Pleasantville. I’ll only ask you to ignore my head nodding in tempo to the fireworks because, in my mind, Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” will be accompanying every boom.

— Scott Schultz


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