Saturday, July 05, 2008

Attending one of the Madison area's most meditative and intimate fireworks displays

A Sense of Wonder at the Fire Raining Down from the Sky
We sit in darkness, expectantly. A shell streaks skyward, climbing on a fiery trail that fades into darkness. For an instant, nothing happens. Then an explosion sounds and we're bathed in light. Brightly colored parabolas arc across the sky, fading as they fall. We watch the last fiery embers twinkling in the dark as they come raining down. It's endlessly hypnotizing. The fireworks happen every year, and are always pretty much the same, but we're transfixed anyhow. We sit in motionless awe. To give some idea of just how motionless -- these people at the Shorewood Hills fireworks scarcely moved at all during the 30 seconds it took to shoot each photo.

July 4, 2008There are other, more spectacular fireworks in Madison this time of year -- the big Rhythm and Booms show at Warner Park the Saturday before the Fourth, the other large show at Elver Park on the Fourth, and various other displays in surrounding communities. But the most meditative and intimate of all the displays is probably the one put on by the Shorewood Hills Fire Department Association at the Blackhawk Country Club. Attendance, mostly but not entirely made up of village residents, is modest, naturally limited by available parking. Most attendees sit on the hillside in front of the clubhouse at the east end of the course, and the ground displays can only be seen by them.

But in my mind, the best seats in the house are at the other end of the course, where every year a small group spreads out between the trees on the fairway. It's wonderfully dark. Lake Mendota is nearby, and you can usually see distant fireworks across the lake, tiny blossoms of light that appear and disappear silently, magically. On the darkened golf course, if it's a warm night and not too windy, fireflies usually give a warm-up show. Finally, when it's pitch dark, the first fireworks are launched. There's no music, and the show unfolds at a sedate pace. Mostly, it's just individual shells doing their thing and giving the sky back to the night before the next is launched. Occasionally two or three at a time. But that's as showy as it gets, until the final climax. The entire performance has a kind of classical elegance, compared with the more overproduced pop extravaganzas elsewhere. It's always memorable.

Note: Click through the photos to Flickr and click on map location, zooming in on satellite view, to see location where photo was shot.

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