Bisbee may be a small town, but it puts on one heck of a fireworks display for the Fourth. The Bisbee Fire Department is in charge of the event, and every year they choreograph a spectacular show with lots of old favorites and some new effects.
This year's show featured "chrysanthemums" that changed colors three times and shot single or double red "stars" out of their hearts; double rings of different colors both perpendicular to each other and in the same plane; half-and-half spheres with a globe of a third color inside; seemingly typical bursts whose trails expanded into thick, sinuous dreadlocks of shimmering champagne-colored sparks; and "serpentines" composed of a dozen or more red fireballs that zigzag off into the night like characters from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Way kewl!
And fireworks manufacturers are working with an increasingly sophisticated color palette these days. Turquoise, periwinkle, lemon, and marigold have joined the basic red, white, blue, green, and gold of my childhood memories. In between the patriotic red/white/blue shells came beauties that made it hard not to think of other seasons. A chrysanthemum terminating in multicolored pastel "stars" would have been perfect for Easter, a half green, half yellow globe looked like a celebration of spring (or an ad for Sprite), and of course there were plenty of red/green combos.
For southern Arizona, Independence Day often comes at the worst possible time to be shooting off sparks. Our summer "monsoon" begins sometime between late June and early July, so when the rains are late the Fourth falls during the hottest, driest week of the year (today's highs were 110° F in Tucson and 102 in Sierra Vista, though "only" 98 in Bisbee). But the firefighters have a virtually fireproof platform from which to launch the display, thanks to Bisbee's legacy as a mining town: the top of the Number 7 ore dump, conveniently located at the upper end of Vista Park. Nothing grows on the ore, so there's nothing up there to catch fire should a shell go astray (as some do every year). There are a few old wooden houses around the base of the ore pile, and I wouldn't be surprised if the occupants watch the show from their yards with a garden hose close at hand, charged and ready to go.
So the professional show is pretty safe for spectators and neighbors, but the same can't be said of the amateurs. Personal fireworks are illegal in Arizona, but that doesn't stop people from crossing the border into New Mexico to buy their own dangerous toys. One early July day shortly after we moved into our house, I heard a crackling sound and looked out the window to see six-foot flames crisping our newly planted desert willow tree. Some wayward bottle rocket had set a wildfire in our very own yard!
You might wonder, as I have, how all the noise and light of a fireworks display affects the local wildlife. I suspect that they take it in stride. After all, nature regularly puts on far scarier shows. Though our electronic rain gauge registered a inch of rain while we were away last week in Colorado, the "monsoon" hasn't officially started. Nevertheless, this evening the sky south and east of our neighborhood flashed with its own awesome fireworks.