Now, I like the Winters Swim Team and Little League just as much as the next person. My kids participated on both. I was even a Little League coach for years. But this fireworks booth stuff? It needs to end. Either that, or Winters needs some groundbreaking city ordinances regarding “safe and sane fireworks” (one of the greatest oxymorons ever).
Even if Cal Fire determines that fireworks didn’t cause the recent Monticello Fire (my money’s on “they did”), something needs to change. We have a year to figure it out. Let’s get on it.
Have you ever been to Winters on the Fourth of July? No? Let me describe the scenario: Late in the afternoon, hordes of people from surrounding communities descend upon our town to watch the fireworks display (from outside the high school track fence, of course, so they don’t have to chip in a couple bucks). After they stop by the fireworks stands and load up, they settle in on every downtown parking lot, vacant field and street corner within view of the big show.
As dusk approaches, the hellish hootenanny begins. Walking through the side streets on the way to the high school is like treading into a war zone. Things are sizzling and exploding all around, idiots are throwing firecrackers and those little buzzy, spinny things right at your feet or worse yet, under passing cars, because hey, nothing says “God Bless America!” like a van full of kids exploding into flames. The air is brown and opaque, your eyes and nose burn, and the whole world smells of smoke and gunpowder. Winters becomes one big, fat tailgate party. With explosives. What could possibly go wrong.
So. Let’s imagine (and you’ll have to imagine because it’s never happened) that all these folks with all these fireworks — and just the legal ones, mind you, since we’re imagining — come into town, have their fun and go home, and nothing bad happened. Nobody got burned, nobody’s palm trees became torches, nobody’s roof turned black and crispy, nobody’s animals got spooked, ran off and were hit by cars… not even one single fire department call.
Trash, that’s what. Piles and piles of trash. Because it’s way less fun to take the charred mess home than it was to make it. Good ‘Murican that you are, you just leave it all there in a heap, pack up the kids and head back to where you came from, and let someone else worry about it. You, and about a thousand of your patriotic pals.
No. I’m not exaggerating. There are about 1,000 extra people in Winters every Fourth of July. Crammed into every nook and cranny, lighting stuff on fire as fast as they can strike a match and frantically reaching for the next screaming fountain before the last one fades. Oh, and also? No restrooms to accommodate all these extra people.
Not only does the town’s capacity hit critical mass every July 4, not only do they leave their burned trash everywhere — because they don’t live here, they couldn’t care less about causing actual damage. I arrived at work last Monday and discovered a huge, round pile of ash on the lovely brickwork leading into the crosswalk. Someone came to town, lit off their fireworks right there on the bricks instead of the parking lot asphalt five feet away, let it all burn to rubble and went merrily on their way.
Not only did the pigs leave their garbage behind, they destroyed the bricks underneath. Now there’s a big, black etched spot there. Since redevelopment funds paid for that brickwork and redevelopment has since dried up, I imagine the bricks will remain black and destroyed indefinitely.
Time for new city ordinances, people.
For starters, toll booths at all entrances to town on July 4. No Winters address on your drivers license? That’ll be $20 per car. Thank you for your donation to the Winters Fire Department, ma’am. Oh, you want to park that car? Please proceed to the designated public parking lots. That’ll be another $10 for the firefighters.
My crankypants are extra-tight today. Let’s keep going.
Ordinance number three: At least one resident living at the spot where fireworks are being lit must be present. You only get to trash up the sidewalk in front of your own house.
Fourth ordinance: No fireworks allowed beyond the reach of a working garden hose, and a bucket of water must be available.
Fifth ordinance: Those without a Winters connection can light fireworks in the designated city-controlled “fireworks garden.” We’ll pattern the fireworks gardens after our Youth Day “beer garden”: a hot, bare slab of asphalt roped off with yellow caution tape, flanked with scowling uniformed security guards staring at you from behind mirrored sunglasses. If we can make drinking beer this much fun, we can do the same for fireworks.
Also, (sixth ordinance) all 1,000 of you don’t get to cram in there at once. It’s like a campground. There are only so many spaces (and by the way — those also cost another $10). What — you didn’t make an online reservation beforehand? Fireworks garden full? Awww. Sucks to be you, dunnit. Take your safe and sane stash back home and trash up your own community.
And: Violate any of these new ordinances, and you get a ticket and a fat fine. The police department gets to keep that money. Fourth of July is a pain in the patoot for the police, too.
As for the swim team and Little League folks who by now are shrieking that I’m destroying their fundraising, and it will be the end of youth sports, and I’m a fat, stupid harpy who hates the troops and also puppies — tell it to the fire department. Maybe they’ll split those Fourth of July visitors’ fees with you. After they deduct their expenses from fighting Fourth of July fires, of course.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at firstname.lastname@example.org; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com