Sunday, July 01, 2007

Rhythm & Booms 2007

Sunset over Lake Mendota, 2006

Yesterday was "the Midwest's largest fireworks display" held in Madison, Rhythm & Booms. It is an all day event held at an area park and includes two music stages, a midway, and baseball game, culminating in a large fireworks show set to music. Our small group set out for the park about 4pm and found a nice spot near the middle that was close enough to hear the bands at the Triple M stage but far enough away we could hear each other talk. I'm extremely tired today from too much sun and being up so late--traffic after can be a nightmare, even when you park a mile or two from the park--and then slept horribly last night, waking every hour or two without reason.

There was perfect weather for this year's event: warm without being too hot, sunny, hardly a cloud in the sky, and just a hint of breeze. Last year started out much the same, but was cancelled late in the afternoon due to tornadoes in the area. We were glad we hadn't yet left for the park, and decided to view them on the rain date from across Lake Mendota at Law Park rather than fight late-night traffic. The pic above was taken a half hour before last year's fireworks.

As I said, we had much better weather this year, a perfect day for lazing amidst 250, 000 of your neighbors. You wouldn't think you'd run into people you know in such a crowd, yet we do almost every year and were "accosted" by a friend's dad before we had even set out our blankets. I got a bit of color, but no real sunburn due to diligent use of sunscreen. There were a few times during the hour spent at the midway that I could feel my skin burning and immediately reapplied the sun screen. The hat probably helped as well. My two-yr-old niece, The Bug, was actually pretty good. She was worn out after a few rides, and we thought she would take a nap after dinner. We were so wrong! The little brat suddenly got her second wind and it was all we could do to get her settled down before the show started.

We missed the skydivers at 7pm, as we were over at the midway at that time. I remember looking at my watch just a little before and feeling like there something significant about the hour, but totally forgot about them. We could have walked part way back to the blanket and seen them up close as they came in, which I'm sure The Bug would have liked as she did the helicopters that brought in the cannon for the "1812" around 8pm, and the trio of Black Hawk helicopters that flew over the park around 8:30. The F-16s that flew in on the tail of the "The Star-Spangled Banner" however...not so much. Apparently they are much too loud for her liking.

The fireworks were, of course, spectacular. My sole complaint: I wish they'd break their Sandi Patty CD and find a different version of the national anthem to play. Judging by the restlessness of the audience, the eye rolling and audible sighs just before she hits that note no mere mortal could possibly hope to accomplish...I'm not alone. It's too slow and impossible for anyone without opera training to sing along to--and isn't the singing of the nation's anthem supposed to be a large part of our Independence Day celebration? A couple years ago they actually did break away from the Sandi Patty. People sitting near us burst into applause and more than one person was overheard to exclaim something to the effects of, "Thank God they didn't play the usual version!" Do the coordinators keep returning to it out of pure laziness? For the simple fact they already have it choreographed to fireworks? If so, shame on them! How about next year you give people something different for a change?

Opinions on the choice of music during this year's show ran the gamut of emotions. Spectators bring radios to the park as the fireworks are set to music broadcast over a local radio station. This makes it possible to enjoy the fireworks from many different locations along the shores of Lake Mendota, as well as Olin Park on the other side of the isthmus.

The show is usually divided into three parts: popular soundtracks, oldies, and patriotic (ending, of course, with a small sampling of the "1812 Overture"). Some of this year's was actually quite good. The Beatles' selections--a tribute to the new Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas--seemed to be a huge hit, especially the giant octopi and peace signs that accompanied Octopus' Garden. Other soundtrack selections...not so much. I liked the Enya song, my sister did not. The "Dream Girls" segment seemed a big success all around, but other selections were unfamiliar and "draggy." The country segment was an interesting departure from the usual oldies medley. While I'm not that keen on music by the Dixie Chicks (I like some of their music, but mostly not), I do like "Wide Open Spaces," and how it was choreographed.

The finale, of course, is always huge, with so many fireworks going off at once they illuminate the entire park and drown out the end of the music. This year's finale was particularly memorable as it set the park on fire. No, I am not kidding. I have no idea how big the actual blaze was. This morning's newspaper barely made mention of it, saying it was "only a few trees" on Willow Bay Island where the fireworks are set off. From where we sat in the middle of the park, an entire stretch of woods seemed back lit with orange flames. A short news bulletin posted to Channel 27's website indicated several trees were set on fire by fireworks and one person taken to hospital via Med Flight. Thankfully, it was nowhere near the area where people sit to watch the show--though we have learned the hard way not to sit too near the water. Our blanket bears a few scorch marks and one small hole from where hot debris landed on it years ago. We now sit far enough back, about the midpoint between sidewalk and lake, that we are rarely showered with ash or other debris.

All in all a good day though, as I said, quite tiring. Next up: Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra's Fourth of July performance of Concerts on the Square, featuring the vocal group Five By Design. We plan to stake out territory on the Capitol lawn as early as permitted, then watch area fireworks across Lake Monona. You can see them from a number of different locations from Olin Park, including Maple Bluff (the high ones anyway), Monona, McFarland, and Stoughton. Hopefully the "possible scattered storms" predicted for that day scatter in a different direction. I'm sure Jana would love to have them down in Mississippi.

Ed 7/2: This morning's early news states that the woman airlifted by Med Flight was an unrelated health issue and that the blaze was more of a problem than previously reported, with firefighters watching Willow Bay Island all of Saturday night and Sunday to battle flare-ups. Though we have had rain this summer, the island grass is apparently tinder dry. They usually hose it down prior to the fireworks, but as we've seen this year, there are no guarantees it will help.

For some great fireworks pics from the event, click here. This site had some neat pics from a completely different perspective, and this one has even more R&B photos. Enjoy!


Annalee Blysse said...

That is sun a lovely image! I've probably mentioned before I have a friend that lives in Madison. I got an e-mail from her a week or so back. I wonder if she saw the fireworks.

Heather said...

Thanks, Annalee -- and yes, I think you have mentioned. ;)