Native Writes: Celebrate carefully

Celebrations are planned around the Valley to celebrate July 4 — the anniversary of our nation’s independence.

As always, the fireworks in Alamosa are set to be spectacular. As long as I can remember, municipal displays have been planned, if not for July 4, then for celebrating events such as a spectacular rodeo, celebration of pioneers, a fiesta, the anniversary of a town or city and more.

Why? History says it’s because John Adams wanted us to. Before the Declaration of Independence was even signed, he envisioned fireworks as a part of the festivities. In a letter to Abigail Adams on July 3, 1776, he wrote that the occasion should be commemorated “with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”

I’m not sure he foresaw all the other occasions for fireworks displays.

The first commemorative Independence Day fireworks were set off on July 4, 1777 and by 1783, a large variety of fireworks were available to the public.

It’s different today. Many small pyrotechnic items are available to those who want them and people of all ages watch the public displays. That is, when the land is not too dry.

Many explosive devices are not allowed in the hands of untrained people. Firecrackers aren’t allowed most places and bottle rockets are open to debate.

There have been a few accidents — that we know about — and caution is advised.

I can understand that. I once tried to grab the burning end of a simple sparkler. I never found the kid who was left permanently blind, without a nose and burned from head to toe from grabbing a sparkler. My dad seemed to know all about him.

Because of their potentially dangerous nature, fireworks are regulated at the local, state and federal levels.

When Adams wrote his letter, the variety of devices was much smaller than we see today. The “rocket’s red glare” is still there, though progress has brought with it many spectacular colors to light the nighttime sky.

Any type of firework that leaves the ground is illegal in Colorado unless fired by trained, licensed professionals. However, certain types that are legal such as sparklers, snakes and fountains.

My mom loved snakes, though they left a black mark on the sidewalk that lasted for a while. “So what?” she asked, continuing, “I had a heck of a time getting that hopscotch off the walk, especially the one you made with part of a store dummy.”

Alamosa when I was small was generally confined to a four-block section of Main Street and three blocks of State Avenue. If a mannequin broke, its remnants were tossed into the alley trash and, yes, pieces of it were great for sidewalk art.

A kid with some spendable cash could buy rockets and, if the money was enough, “Black Cat” firecrackers or an M-80.

My sons had them, their friends had them and they were not always exploded on July 4.

In the back of my mind, my dad reminded me of that unlucky kid…

Be careful out there. Celebrate, but do so wisely.