There are many reasons to love South Dakota. There is no state income tax. The Black Hills are beautiful both this and every other time of year. It houses some of the most fertile farmland in the United States. And it is super cheap to register your car. While these are all excellent reasons to love my home state, there is another that outshines them all.
Relaxed laws regulating the use of fireworks, at least in some towns.
That's right. This is a 4th of July post.
Yes I know the 4th was last week. This is my life now.
First I should give some you some of my pyrotechnical background.
As a child I had very little exposure to anything other than sparklers. I grew up in Rapid City and was always told that fireworks were banned in city limits for fear of starting a wildfire. My mother never much cared for them, so they weren't a part of our midsummer celebration. Before my late teen years I count only two experiences involving fireworks. Once was at the home of a family friend, while my mother and stepfather looked on in disapproval. The other was with my father, watching him fire off a few for my entertainment on a hill overlooking Fort Pierre before being shooed away by a police officer.
It wasn't until I was a young man of fifteen years, flush with the disposable income of a professional part-time dishwasher, that I was able to purchase seasonal explosives for my own use. Of course, the fact that they were illegal in town was part of the thrill of the occasion for me and my friends. Most of our time was spent finding a suitably hidden location for our combustible exploits. Each of us in the group was a young Prometheus, fleeing the wrath of those in power in order to experience the thrill of recreational fire.
Since those days I have grown up and found a career in the casino entertainment industry. One of the realities of said vocation is that holidays are for working. We are at our busiest on days traditionally reserved for leisure. And so, like many other holidays, my Independence Days are spent at work, helping other people relax and have some fun.
I've been blessed in many ways to be at the casino where I currently work. Not the least of those blessings has been my schedule. Along with great days off and phenomenal hours I was not scheduled to work on the 4th this year. This is the first Independence Day I have not had to work in ten years. That predates the both my marriage and the the birth of my oldest child.
I was finally able to spend the 4th with my family and it.. was.. AWESOME! We spent the morning touring potential homes and had a great family lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. We returned home to buy fireworks and start putting dinner together. My Princess and I put together a short pre-dinner home fireworks display to the great enjoyment of Chunky Monkey. Then we feasted on grilled brats with all the traditional summer sides. After Princess and I ignited the rest of our fireworks it was time to put my son into bed. Great-Grandma stayed home with Chunky Monkey and the rest of the family headed off to the city baseball field for the fireworks extravaganza.
Extravaganza is really the only applicable word here. The local show in this small town is absolutely world-class in every way. Put on by a local business owner (who also holds a Pyrotechnics Guild International license) at no cost to the city, this annual show is always the talk of this small town. I had heard it described before but until this year I had never experienced it. It began with a ground show. This year's theme was "Godzilla". Three different Godzilla monsters were made out of fire. They attacked Tokyo, also made of fire, only to face defeat at the hands of a battalion of tanks also made out of, you guessed it, FIRE.
And that was just the first act.
It was followed by an hour-long aerial show featuring massive sky-flowers, ground based fountains, and explosions that could be felt deep in the gut. All this was launched a mere 450 or so feet from where we sat. Calling it grandiose would be an understatement.
Ears still ringing and slightly singed, we finally staggered back to bed at a completely indecent hour. It was easily the best 4th of July I have ever experienced.
No matter where I end up in life, no matter how far away I make my home, I will always try to return back here in midsummer. These folks know how to celebrate the 4th.