The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

July 8, 2012

Summer Always Arrives with a Bang

Filed under: Holidays — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:50 pm

(Note: Most of this post was written on Thursday while on a plane ride, but for the last few days I’ve been mostly offline with Internet access limited to my phone (which I am not crazy enough to try to type up an entire Blog post on,) hence the lateness of this post.  Gotta’ strike while the iron is hot, right?)

If you happen to be reading this right now, then it means that I managed to make it through another Fourth of July with all of my fingers intact, and may have even managed to keep an eyebrow or two. Given the mayhem that tends to ensue at the now customary Vanderhoeven Fourth of July get-together that my Aunt Pam and Uncle Mike host at their house down in Bonney Lake, this isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. Even though we didn’t quite manage to fill the back of a truck with fireworks this year (although that was mostly due to the lack of a truck to employ for the purpose) we still managed to have way too much stuff. And as usual, I made plenty of contributions.

For my part, this year I went for the quality over quantity approach, spending most of my fireworks budget on a couple of boxes of Excalibur shells. For those of you who aren’t familiar with these, they’re just about the biggest aerial shells you can buy as a consumer, and it shows. I also threw in a few giant Slayer rockets for good measure, just to keep things interesting. Ultimately, I didn’t bring a whole lot of stuff (at least not compared to last year’s trunkful of chaos) but between my stuff and the stuff everyone else brought, we were still lighting stuff off for hours. Even lighting the things off 3 or 4 at a time, 48 Excalibur shells is still quite a bit of bang for the buck (and given the number of bucks involved, that is quite a lot of bang indeed.)

Even so, when compared to what the neighbors were setting off our fireworks haul looked pretty puny on comparison. They had a whole rack of mortar tubes set up, and we’re firing as many as 15 of the things off at a time, and throwing in the big 500 gram cakes in between for good measure. And even their stuff was dwarfed by what e people a few houses over across the main road were firing off. I don’t even want to know how much money some of these people are spending on this stuff. I have to figure that between all the different who bring fireworks for our party every year we have to be lighting off at least a few hundred bucks worth of stuff, but some of these people have to be spending well over a thousand bucks on their Fourth of July displays. Not that I’m complaining, it makes for quite the impressive show when I get a few seconds to watch in between lighting off my own stuff.

One of these years I would be tempted to jut let someone else take care of the lighting, find a nice comfy chair and just watch, but to me the lighting stuff is the fun part. It’s probably one of those things hardcoded into the Y chromosome that as to do with asserting dominance over fire and things like that, but there’s something that’s just primally satisfying about watching something go up and blow up and knowing that it’s your doing (or your fault if it ended up on the neighbors’ roof, but that’s another story) that you don’t quite get from merely watching. That isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy watching fireworks (I actually do when circumstances permit). The pros can put on some pretty impressive displays, including one in Downtown Bellevue that I understand can be quite good, but to me the Fourth of July is my one chance during the year to blow stuff up and (usually) not end up having awkward conversations with the police. And I don’t plan to let an opportunity like that go to waste if I can help it.

Even so, as I have participated in the big Vanderhoeven Fourth of July blowouts over the past few years, I’ve found that my approach to buying fireworks has changed. For example, as much fun as it is to have a bunch of stuff to light off, I do think that there’s a point where it gets to be too much. For example, the big bottle rocket packs give you plenty of stuff to light off, but at some point you’re going to find that you’ve already lit most of the big stuff, and you’ve still got a ton of the tiny little bottle rockets, and it would take far too long to light the things off.  Eventually the neighbors are going to be lighting off huge 500-gram cakes and big barrages of shells and you’re going to be trying to burn off all the dinky little bottle rockets, and probably feeling just a tad inadequate in the process.  In this case, it almost seems like a “less is more” situation, where we would be better off  with smaller quantities of bigger stuff, but at the same time, if I’m going to spend $50 or more on a single item at the fireworks stand, it better at least have more than one fuse.  On the other hand I would be seriously tempted to try out one of those huge 100o-shot Saturn Missile batteries or a 16,000 firecracker roll just for the sheer audacity of the whole thing  if the things weren’t so dang expensive (we actually did a couple of 300-shot batteries last year, and at least one this year.)  When it all boils down it’s basically a slightly fancier way of burning a $100 bill than, well, burning a $100 bill, but the neighborhood doesn’t usually applaud that one at the end.

Anyway, with the Fourth of July festivities out of the way, it’s time to get on with the business of enjoying the Summer, and there looks to be plenty on the schedule…

July 7, 2009

It’s Like Christmas, But More Flammable

Filed under: Holidays — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 8:00 pm

For years now, the Fourth of July around here has been a pretty humdrum affair.  Aside from the scattered public fireworks displays (and the horrendous crowds associated with them) and the various ad hoc displays that pop up in spite of the longstanding fireworks bans in place on the Eastside, there hasn’t been a whole lot to see or do from here.  Then last year’s Fourth of July came around, which was spent at an uncharacteristically small gathering down at my Aunt Pam and Uncle Mike’s house in Bonney Lake.  With fireworks permitted in Bonney Lake and relatively close proximity to various Indian reservations where all the big stuff was readily available, the cumulative results of all the various displays in the area were nothing short of breathtaking.

For this year’s Fourth of July, the word had gotten out, and practically the whole family was participating.  All who were so inclined were encouraged to bring along fireworks, and given some of the Vanderhoeven family’s latent tendencies toward casual pyromania (fortunately not the anti-social type, just the part that likes to set things on fire for fun) this year’s show promised to be huge.  Of course, since there’s nothing more powerful than so-called “fun” snaps and party poppers available around here, it was time to go pay a visit to the Reservations to go take a look into the highly combustible world of Indian fireworks.  After the jump we’ll check out the stuff (well, some of it anyway) that you can get on the Reservations.


July 3, 2009

Recycled Newspaper: The Eastside Celebrates America’s Bicentennial

Filed under: History, Kirkland, Recycled Newspaper — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 2:05 am
East Side Journal, June 3rd 1976

East Side Journal, June 3rd 1976

Here on the Eastside, the Fourth of July tends to be something of a low-key affair these days.  Here in Redmond, the annual Derby Days festival generally takes place a week after the Fourth, so most of the time little is done by the city to celebrate the Fourth.  Kirkland and Bellevueeach have their respective civic celebrations and requisite fireworks displays, and then there’s always the ones in Seattle (well, only one this year, since the 4th of Jul-Ivar’s show seems to have been cancelled.)  Beyond that, there’s generally not much to do.  Throughout the Eastside and most of the area personal fireworks are banned outright (a subject that remains a sore spot with your Blogger, but that’s a topic for another post that I’ll just go ahead and spare you from) so aside from fighting the crowds at one of the public fireworks displays, you’re pretty much on your own.  That doesn’t mean that people won’t find a way to celebrate.  For some people, that means heading off to somewhere that fireworks are allowed and setting them off there (the unincorporated Kingsgate area of Kirkland is one of the few places on the Eastside in which fireworks are allowed still, although if Kirkland’s proposed annexation of the area is approved in the November elections this will undoubtedly change) and for others it means going and finding some activity of their own.

Of course, some Fourth of July celebrations are bigger than others, and few have been bigger than the celebration of America’s Bicentennial on July 4th 1976.  For this Recycled Newspaper, I thought I’d take a look through the local newspapers around this time period, and see how the Bicentennial was celebrated here on the Eastside.  For the purposes of this post all of this material comes from the East Side Journal, but virtually all of this can be found in identical form in the Bellevue American issues from the same time period.  At this point, the Bellevue American had bought the East Side Journal, and within a few months of this the two papers would merge with each other to form the Daily Journal-American.  In fact, although it is not included here, one of the papers from this time period included the first in a series of editorials discussing  the upcoming merger of the two papers and explaining the rationale behind it.  Nonetheless, that was still a few months off at this point, although it might be covered at a later date.  In the meantime, let’s take a look at how the Bicentennial was celebrated on the Eastside, after the jump.


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