Mack Williams: O say, I can’t quite see!

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 21, 2019

Mack Williams


Don’t worry, this is not something political about the National Anthem, but instead, concerns something which happened at the 2019 July 4th celebration in Danville, Virginia.
We celebrated the Fourth, as always, with a patriotic concert by the Danville Symphony, and a great fireworks show afterwards.

Point to remember: there has been so much effort and money put into the development of a place (and idea) known as “The Dan River District,” that some other areas have felt slighted by the City Council.

Danville’s annual celebration of the Fourth was held, as always for a number of years now in the Carrington Pavilion, a canopied stage with seating, surrounded by an un-terraced grassy amphitheater. Following the concert, people walk to the grassy area and parking lot to see the fireworks, launched from a point behind the Pavilion.

The excellent concert concluded; then there was a pause, followed by a couple of “explosions” (fireworks) behind us. Since they were from the wrong direction, we just thought it was some “fireworks rapscallion” (many of us have been such, including me) setting off a fireworks on his own, risking police arrest.

We soon realized the fireworks were being set off in a diametrically opposite, different place; and all that we could now see from our time-honored viewing spot were “sparks” in the sky between gaps in the trees.

People were moving rapidly towards better viewing spots, though not as rapid as the frightened crowds in “The War of the Worlds” (1953) or any Godzilla movie (unlike the Godzilla movies, the crowd was heading toward the explosions, instead of away from them).

An official “shooed” us off the Dan River Walk Trail bridge, saying the Fire Marshall had determined it unsafe for so many people (although it once handled that steam and diesel freight tonnage for decades!).

A group was being directed down a sloped, paved walkway, their “subterranean” view now blocked by the bridge upon which they had previously been standing (before being run off of it).
The mayhem’s cause was the City’s initiating a 180-degree relocation of the fireworks’ launching point into its much “balleyhooed” Dan River District, where there’s a lot of “Re-imaging” and “Re-imagining” going on (but we hadn’t “imagined” what was going to happen that evening).

If advertised beforehand, it must not have been placed in enough venues; for the mass of humanity present seemed bewildered.

My late wife Diane’s 92-year-old mother Doris, sitting in her wheelchair, said she didn’t feel like being jostled about in search of clearer viewing, adding she could see okay from where she was (but I think she was just being stoic).

Adding insult to injury, we learned that the new prime-viewing area was an old Dan River Mill parking lot. For each former parking space, delineated by faded, painted lines with weeds growing up though cracks (cracks, strangely oriented to the old faded lines), the city was charging $25 a space for fireworks watchers.

Someone said the City was only charging this year to support the development of the new “Riverside Park” (in the Dan River District); but I suspect, as is the way of government, once a charge, always a charge (tax). “If it walks like a duck/tax, and it quacks like a duck/tax, it’s a tax/duck” (swimming in the Dan River, adjacent the new prospective Dan River District).
We finally found a viewing spot, but only the loftier bursts could be seen in entirety, due to “building blockage.”

For its “dime,” the City had toyed with tradition; and in doing so, had toyed with us too. Several days later, at church, I even heard a sweet, demure Presbyterian choir soprano grumble about what the City had done to our time-honored, Fourth of July tradition.

When a sweet, demure soprano in the Presbyterian choir feels so moved to grumble, you know that somewhere, someone has royally screwed up!


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