Our Fascination with Fireworks

I had the unique pleasure this weekend of hosting WTAE’s tape-delayed coverage of the PItstburgh 250 Fireworks celebration. It was billed as the largest, most elaborate fireworks show in the history of our country.

As we prepared for the start of the 30 minute show, I was struck at how many people were in town for this. It was as if all of western Pennsylvania had trekked down to the city. Traffic on every street was backed up, the sidewalks were filled with people. It was impossible to find a parking spot and the line to ride the incline from Station Square stretched at least 100 yards.

Then, the fireworks show began. Using 17 different launch points, the fireworks seemed to be coming from every direction around us. As for the people in Point State Park watching with me, they seemed mesmerized by the show of sparks. They were at once both quiet and screaming at the top of their lungs.

Pittsburgh’s skyline lights up with fireworks for its 250th birthday ( Courtesy: Sidney Davis/Tribune-Review )

And what was I thinking during all this?

What is the deal with fireworks and this town?

I know fireworks were invented by the Chinese, but sometimes I wonder the way this city goes absolutely bonkers for the bangs coming from the sky. Whether it’s after a Pirates game, during some city celebration or on the Fourth of July, Pittsburghers will stop what they are doing for a fireworks show.

Think I’m exaggerating? The Pirates haven’t been in contention for the playoffs in August since 1992. Yet, they play to packed crowds for one weekend every year no matter how bad they are or who they are playing. Why? Skyblast: A three-night fireworks tour-de-force that will literally make drivers stop right on the Fort Duquesne Bridge and watch the show.

Look, I’m not a fuddy duddy or someone who thinks he’s superior to other people. I just don’t get the fireworks fascination in this town. Then again, just like the Pittsburgh left turn, it’s uniquely Pittsburgh and perhaps its that quirky characteristic that makes our city one of a kind.

However, it may also be that special event that brings us closer together. As I watched people make their way to their special spots to see the show, I was amazed at how many families were making the pilgrimage. In this day and age where parents and children are often separated by TV, Internet and Ipods, this was probably the once chance for them to do something together … other than having dinner.

OK, while I don’t get it, I can appreciate … and maybe that’s all that fireworks are for. To be appreciated.

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