More and more people have been getting into the Fourth of July mindset in recent weeks with illegal backyard fireworks. Across the country, people have been releasing some pandemic frustration by shooting off their own displays.
People can apply to their sheriff’s department to try to get a permit to responsibly shoot off a fireworks display for their neighbors. But this is America, where people see it as their God-given civil right to shoot Roman candles into the night sky.
For the most part, especially in large cities, police departments have turned a blind eye. They have enough on their plates right now.
Firework stands just across the borders in Wisconsin and South Dakota have seen business skyrocket with many customers crossing in from Minnesota.
Ironically, Wisconsin residents can legally buy fireworks in their state but it’s illegal for them to use any that explode or leave the ground. It’s a fine example of lawmakers putting their hands out to take the sales tax money while at the same time kowtowing to the anti-fireworks lobby by making their use illegal.
South Dakota, a sensible state, allows its residents to buy the fireworks sold there and to shoot them off at certain times: June 27 to the Sunday after July 4, and from Dec. 28 to Jan. 1 to celebrate New Year’s.
Of course Minnesota still has a ban on exploding or aerial fireworks at any time of the year. But the pressure to allow it is always building and this year’s free-for-all of illegal aerial shows will likely add more pressure.
People often wonder why we use fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July.
The short answer is we’ve always loved to blow things up and to watch things blow up.
John Adams knew that. Even before the Declaration of Independence was inked by the Founding Fathers, he saw fireworks as a central part of a celebration to mark its official approval by Congress on July 4, 1776.
He wrote that the day should be celebrated “with pomp and parade, with shews (shows), games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
Like everything else this year, the Fourth will be whatever we can make it.
There will be no parades, no community fireworks, no marching bands.
The Legion club in St. Peter is going to serve hot dogs, baked beans, chips and a patriotic cookie curbside on the Fourth. Not the traditional parade and grilled chicken in the park, but a nice event to mark the occasion.
I guess people could still stage some kind of parade with plenty of social distancing, but it would be cumbersome. Three or four members of the Lancers at a time could spread out on a city block playing their instruments with a few dozen spectators spread out along the sidewalks on each block.
But there’d probably be some loss in continuity with the musical pieces, and you wouldn’t be able to watch to see if each row of marchers was staying in step.
We can’t do any potlucks with the neighbors this Fourth. Heck, you don’t really want the neighbors anywhere near you these days.
The pandemic does provide a handy excuse to distance yourself from anyone you really don’t like. You can tell the really annoying neighbors that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just came out with new guidelines that now recommend 60-foot distancing. After Larry, the sweaty neighbor in the white tank top undershirt, yells back and forth with you from two backyards away, he’ll just get tired of it and go back in his garage.
The public pomp and circumstance may not be there this year, but all the things that matter can be. We can celebrate the Declaration, a masterpiece written largely by Thomas Jefferson. We’ll be heading to the cabin with some kids and grandkids coming up. There will be s’mores and watermelon and brats, bonfires and, hopefully, some fireflies.
And as John Adams would want, there will be fireworks.
Tim Krohn can be contacted at email@example.com or 507-344-6383.