I got to do something this 4rth of July holiday that was the most fun I've had in a long time-Hubby and I were invited to join the volunteer crew that sets off the fireworks display for a local beach community-my rule is that if someone asks you if you want to do something that involves fuses and requires a lot of safety gear and fire extinguishers, you always say yes. So there we were on the beach with our motorcycle helmets and eye protection and ear plugs around 5:00 pm. A huge section of the beach had already been cordoned off and most of the fireworks stuff was on the beach. We had to lug the mortar racks and the boxes of fireworks down to the shore then set up the racks and load them with the fireworks. It involved a lot of heavy lifting and shoveling so I decided to consider it cross training, since I skipped my usual run that morning. We got the mortar racks set up and now the fun part-loading them with the fireworks. The fireworks come in various sizes from 3" to 5" and look like small cannon balls wrapped in brown paper, with long fuses hanging out of them. My main job at this point was to make sure that the fireworks were varied, and that we didn't have a whole row of blue ones or magenta or gold, so I walked down the 5 rows of mortars, swapping out the fireworks-that part was fun. Then we carefully dropped the fireworks down the mortars with the fuses hanging out. After taping the fuses down we were ready for the show and the only thing left to do was to wait for dusk.
The crowds had gathered on the beach on both sides of our area and everyone was in a holiday mood. And here's the totally cool part-the guy in charge told Hubby and me that newbies always go first when it comes time to set off the fireworks, so I got to fire off the first row. We were given careful instruction on how to do it safely and finally I was handed a road flare and it was show time. I stepped up to the first rack of mortars, pulled of the paper guard on the end of the fuse, lit it and then turned away as I had been instructed to do. I heard a "ffffft" and then BOOM and the crowds of people on both sides cheered! With the guy in charge watching closely I continued down the row, lighting each one carefully. I really didn't get to see the ones I set off but every time I lit one I heard a highly satisfying cheer from the onlookers and I felt like a rock star each time.
Finally my row was done and it was Hubby's turn. He started lighting each mortar and I was able to enjoy the fireworks from a unique perspective, since we were directly underneath the display. We had embers and bits of burning paper raining down around us and it was amazing. After Hubby lit off all his mortars it was time for the more expert volunteers to light the cakes. These are large boxes full of fireworks designed to fire right from the ground, rather than being shot into the air and then exploding. They kind of fire in rows, and when these were set off we REALLY got showered with embers. It was an incredible experience, in which I felt like I was standing right in the middle of the fireworks display. And yet, through it all, I never felt like I was in an unsafe situation. The other volunteers had years of experience and several of them were firemen; and the guy in charge was extremely cautious.
Finally we had set off the rows of mortars with the more experienced volunteers setting off the fireworks in multiples rather than one by one as I did, and it was time for the grand finale. There was a flurry of activity and everyone had an assigned task except for Hubby and me; our task was to stay out of everyones way and enjoy the show. There were the last mortars and several cakes set off in quick succession and the show was over. Now, we had to clean up the beach and lug all the mortar racks and gear and trash up to the waiting van and get it torn down and loaded up. We didn't finish until almost midnight and we were exhausted but it was worth all the work.
Hubby and I were completely done in by the time we got home and we slept in Monday morning; and somehow I managed to jack up my foot when we were setting up the mortars and it's so sore I doubt if I'll be running for at least a week, and I now have an old jacket with some interesting holes burned in it, and the evening was totally worth it. I told the guy in charge that we'll volunteer to help again next year, and I have a new goal to aspire to-some day, I want to be part of the crew that sets off the finale!