Even though it's illegal here, people were always firing them off from their backyards anyways. So we might've had a local puff here or there to "ooh" at, but as evening set in, we'd set out in search of the town displays. We'd fight the miles of traffic and spend a half hour just finding a spot to park, and often get there half into it and have to find another one to go to. Grand finales could be seen from miles away, so we'd chase down any puff of color in the sky as the crackles rumbled here and there in the dark. Once or twice we'd get a little too close and the ash would actually start falling down on us (like this one time when I was sitting up in the jungle gym at a local field), and that would just rock my world! "The closer, the better!" I used to think. But my parents always kept us at a safe and car-convenient distance... sometimes my brother and I would even sit on the roof of the car to watch them.
We never prepared. Sometimes we brought a blanket to sit on, but that was it. We knew whatever we had with us we were probably going to be carrying for a mile or two, and it seemed like a good idea then to travel light. But as soon as we were down in the thick of it with everyone else, and sitting out on the grass or the concrete, I always started getting envious of all those people who had packed half their house for the event. They'd all be out there with their folding chairs, portable radios, coolers, and summertime foodstuffs, like watermelons slices and Popsicles, and it always looked a heck of a lot better than just sitting it out on the grass. But I took comfort in knowing that they were NEVER getting out of there! Hell, even we were booking it half way into the grand finale!
Probably just as exciting to the 8yo-me as the fireworks were the glowsticks, necklaces, and bracelets that used to be rolled around on the carts. These guys would come around with about a hundred of these colorful glowing loops and sell them right off their body for like, 2 bucks a pop, and all the kids went crazy for them. As soon as things started getting nice and dark, I'd start seeing other kids with two or three around their neck and couple at the wrists just twirling those brilliant reds and blues and greens in circles and throwing them in the air, and that's when I'd start begging. Even just one was enough. Once I had one slung around my neck, I was officially having a good time...for the week!
I remember the little bubbles on the inside, and that if you snapped them or chewed on them (like I could never stop myself from doing), they'd soon start going dead, but at least a few times my brother and I would be wearing them all the way home in the dark car, twirling them around, and even sleeping with them lighting up the room. They never seemed to last very long, even later into the night, but just like the 4th of July, and summer itself, they certainly were fun while they lasted.
** Happy 4th! **