In a few days we greet another Fourth of July and our minds wander back to the carefree days of childhood when Dad piled us into the station wagon and we headed for the town park to get a good spot for the fireworks. We'd fling mom's porcelain dinner plates around because the Frisbee hadn't been invented yet, flinching each time our dog would leap and catch the heavy plate in his teeth. Ah, good ol' Chip.
Then, as the sun dipped behind the hills (unless you lived in Kansas), we'd fire up the charcoal and we'd feast — hot dogs, hamburgers and the special potato salad, heavy on the mayo, that Dad left out in the sun for a few days because his teeth were sensitive to cold things. (If your family was like ours, and I'm betting it was, July 5 was spent at home with paralyzing stomach cramps.)
After the picnic came the fireworks, bursts of color against the starry summer sky, Grandpa in his folding chair looking puzzled, wondering why the fireworks weren't making any noise this year, me standing behind him, grinning, holding a hearing-aid battery.
Who among us doesn't cherish those magical Fourth of July memories?
The point is, back then every town had a celebration with fireworks. (One year our station wagon wouldn't start, so we sat in the yard and pressed our thumbs against our eyeballs until all kinds of colors appeared. My brother would stumble around shouting, "Oohh, look at that one!")
But here we are in Colorado Springs, an iconic American city, the spot Katharine Lee Bates gazed down upon from Pikes Peak in 1893 when she wrote the words to the actual song "Ho" (actual sample lyrics: "Ho. Ho. Youza hoooo. Prolly doin' ho stuff 'cuz there you ho again."), although it's possible I've mixed up Bates with hip-hop superstar Ludacris.
Here's what I'm getting at: In this proud, patriotic village, buttressed on three sides by military installations (four sides if you count Manitou Springs and its army of misfits), we no longer have a Fourth of July fireworks show and concert in Memorial Park. We ran out of money for things like fireworks (along with streetlights, pothole repair, park maintenance and community dignity) at roughly the same time our mayor was closing an interesting multimillion-dollar backroom deal with a developer pal to create new offices for the U.S. Olympic Committee.
"In this town, with all its veterans, the Fourth of July fireworks show was an important event. I regret that it's not happening anymore," says former Councilman Richard Skorman, who helped run the village back in the day when our leaders had crazy ideas such as putting trash cans in our parks, and the village's revenue stream wasn't based entirely on speeding tickets, parking meter violations and Tea Party parade permits.
Oh sure, there are other fireworks displays in the region. Fort Carson has one. On July 3. (Christmas at the post will be celebrated as usual, on Dec. 24. And for 2011 the Army has scheduled New Year's Day for Jan. 26.)
Kissing Camels Golf Club has fireworks, too, although to get close you have to be a member. Those in the first row can actually see the boy camel slip the girl camel the tongue.
The Air Force Academy has a display that's open to the public. Frankly, nothing says "grand finale" like Tomahawk cruise missiles. (The Air Force hasn't released many details, but if you have relatives in Salt Lake City you should tell them that around 10:20 p.m. they should probably go into their basement. Or a cave.)
And those Manitou Springs misfits still have their annual fireworks show from Red Mountain, sometime after 9 p.m. and nice to watch if you're nearby.
But for a lot of us, the lack of an official Colorado Springs fireworks show marks the end of an era. The picnic. The blanket on the grass. Being with our families. Rising to our feet in the park and standing proudly, Americans all, our heads high and our right hands placed over our hearts as the fireworks sparkle in the sky and the orchestra plays and the night air is filled with the stirring strains of ... Ludacris?