They take their fireworks very seriously in North Dakota. Especially on the 4th of July. Even in the tiny town of Kenmare, there was a temporary warehouse loaded to the gills with fireworks for sale…ranging from the kid-friendly items like sparklers and little tanks that shoot out sparks, to the seriously bad boy shoot-a-large-rocket-that-explodes-200-feet-in-the-air fireworks that retailed for fifty bucks each.
After an eventful day visiting many places from my dad’s childhood, we were invited by 2nd cousins who lived in Minot over for dinner and a holiday celebration. After dinner we walked around the neighborhood, viewing the dike and the damage from the flood two years previously and just enjoying the early evening. It was around 8pm and still light out and we could hear really long strings of firecrackers popping from different driveways. We passed several driveways where they were setting off small bottle rockets and we marveled over how many fireworks had already been set off so early in the evening…there were mounds of spent containers all over the place.
As it grew dark we settled down in lawn chairs to watch my brother Paul and his son Gabriel light off little smoke bombs and other items from a family pack of small fireworks…and then the neighborhood exploded. There were three competing driveways; one to the left, one in the middle and one to the right, as they each set out to have the best huge fireworks display. It was unlike anything any of us had even seen. Each firework was larger than the last, coming one upon another, sophisticated coordinated explosions high in the air…beautiful colors and spirals….and occasionally drifting up and out into the dark…..small lighted hot air balloons. It was magical and thrilling and unbelievable. We marveled over the hundreds of fireworks shooting off and off and off, now the left, now the right…..red and purple and gold and green…sizzling through the air…better than fireworks we had seen from professional city celebrations. One after another after another…it was a stupendous display. Our cousins explained to us that the competition grew from year to year….each neighbor spent 4 or 5 thousand dollars on fireworks….seeking even better thrills.
They don’t do things half way in North Dakota. The hospitality from our cousins was wonderful and more than we could possibly have hoped for…and as far as Fourth of July celebrations and fireworks? We felt so lucky to be watching….as neighbors tried to outdo each other. It’s that American competitive spirit!