Thursday, July 05, 2007

The cultural differences between the Grand Rapids and Detroit fireworks

"WOW," said Willa. "Wow. WOW! wow."

We spread our blanket between the Grand River and the Waterworks building, very near the playground Willa had conquered last weekend. The fireworks were visible, but not so loud that she needed the professional grade ear muff protectors we brought along (nice to have a husband in the sound business). Most of the "wows" were dedicated to the fireworks.

The others were whispered while she watched the big kids crawling, leaping, sliding - all frantic - on "her" jungle gym. It looked like a beehive: swarming and humming with crazy energy. Jim helped Willa get to the slide without the sugar & firework buzzed kids trampling the newest, smallest member of the colony. I held my breath, waiting for her to be squashed.

The fireworks were... well, fireworks. Big, and bright and noisy. Probably less flashy this year, due to budget constraints. The crowd had a haze of bug spray and borderline meanness.

I love the Detroit fireworks, because I've always felt a spirit of "this is our City (with a capital C) and, even if most of us travel from the 'burbs and then try to get the heck out to not get stuck on I-75, we're all in it together." Last night in Grand Rapids, there was more of a "I'm kind of drunk and if you get in my way I'll swear at you." vibe. This is a city with an overall kinder, gentler culture, yet I didn't feel it last night.

Huh, after writing that I'm thinking that the crowd last night was a lot like the big, bright and noisy fireworks. Except without the bright. In Detroit - and perhaps I'm idealizing here because the even is so entwined with my childhood - I always felt like the crowd adopted the intended nobility of the fireworks.

You thoughts?


Em said...

I honestly think that is just the kid in you that always thought that. I think that no matter where I have seen fireworks in my adult years, I get the "drunk, loud" vibe. When I was a kid, I was mindlessly oblivious.

apt said...

But I've gone to the D's fireworks as an adult many times too. Perhaps I was just not feeling the love for any humanity last night.

Em said...

Detroit has more class. ????

Beth said...

I totally disagree. "The crowd had a haze of bug spray and borderline meanness"?? Completely the opposite of my experience(s) with fireworks in GR.

The only problem I ever really experience with fireworks downtown is cigarette smoke, and perhaps I'm overly sensitive about that but it annoys me. I don't get the "we're all in this together" vibe, but I DO get the "hey, this is pretty cool, let's have a good time with everyone downtown" vibe.
Yes, there are areas I avoid when looking for a place to lay my blanket (Pearl St. bridge, anyone?), but I think the overall spirit downtown prior to fireworks is simply "let's have fun."

Since you alluded to it, I would probably agree with Emily that you might be idealizing just a tad bit here. I'm not sure that fireworks are really meant to be a noble thing...perhaps they once were, but that's not the intent I see anymore. Just a time to get out with friends/family, rub shoulders with neighbors you've never met, and experience downtown as a community. That's what I take from fireworks in GR and I've never been disappointed.

apt said...

Maybe we were just in a mean pocket of the crowd - old ladies yelling at kids, a man snidely yelling back at the old ladies, people noticing that they're standing in front of the picnicers who had been there for at least an hour for the prime spot, and then standing right in front of them anyway...

Mean folks.

AmyinMotown said...

See, I have a different experience with the Detroit fireworks, although I should add I have never been in the swarm of humanity along Jefferson. When I was a kid, my dad worked for Stroh's and they would always throw a big fancy party for employees and clients that we could come to. When I lived near Wayne State and near Corktown, you could see them from there. The best year was when I was coming home from my Downriver job late one night and went over the Rouge River bridge where you get that great view of downtown just as the fireworks were ending. I pulled over (along with like everyone else on the road right then) and watched, with the best, most unobstructed view possible.

But honestly? TERRIFIED of the fireworks crowd after the beatdown by those ghetto twins several years ago and the (still unsolved) shooting in 2004. And you know I have pretty good Detroit cred and go downtown for lots of things.