Sunday, July 02, 2006

No Walk in the Park

Kennedy Park, for those not familiar, sits in the south end of the city. It is one of Fall River's three Olmsted parks. It slopes down toward, and eventually meets the Taunton River to the west, it is topped by St. Anne's Church to the east and is bordered by houses and tenements on both sides. Although baseball diamonds fill its upper section and tennis courts and an inground pool intrude at its lower section, taking away some of its grandness and beauty the park is still a majestic thing. It is an oasis, an island of green open space in an ocean of densely populated neighborhoods. Children sleigh and skate in winter, fly kites in the summer, and people stroll year round.

A few weeks ago a story in the Herald News announced that the annual 4th of July fireworks at Kennedy Park, a long standing tradition, would instead be held at Heritage Park.

The story, which I cannot find online to link to, went on to explain that the Veterans Council which is one of the sponsors of the event no longer had the manpower to do it and had approached the folks over at Heritage State Park to take it over.

It's an awful thing to see the end of a much loved tradition.

The 4th of July at Kennedy Park could be a Norman Rockwell painting. Who knows how many generations of Fall Riverites have packed up their loved ones and sitting out on blankets and lawn chairs have watched exploding ribbons of color fill the night sky?

As night falls people from all of the city make their way to Kennedy Park. They leave their cars on nearby side streets and a flood of people, young and old, make their way to the park. As they walk down sidewalks with the heat and humidity of the day at last giving in to night air, they pass by people assembled on porches, in backyards and on stoops. The smells of cookouts and the sound of easy conversation linger in the air as those who live near the park host the perfect Independence Day celebration to be capped off with a near perfect view of the fireworks display.

The park begins to fill, the best spots go first and those who come late will have to contend with a view obstructed by trees. People perch on tiptoes to try to spy among the sea of faces, a friend or relative that they planned to meet up with. Hawkers abound trying to sell glow sticks and ice cream and refreshment carts do brisk business.

Then they start, a whoosh followed by streaks of color and followed by the awaited boom. People oohh and ahhh, some children clap and point while the smaller ones start to cry and cling tight to mom and dad.

The night sky fills with color and the sound of explosions seems non-stop as the fireworks people lead us through several false finales before climaxing with the GRAND FINALE.

The last explosion reverberates off the nearby houses and whoops and cheers fill the park and people head off toward home.

It has been a good night.

But now this simple tradition is being replaced by a 4 day event at Heritage State Park, filled with music, car shows, a traveling amusement park, all capped off with a fireworks display that we be launched from a barge anchored in the taunton river.

Amazingly there has been little public protest over the change in venue, however with such a late announcement any protest would be of no use. Also there is very little promotion going on and I find that a lot of people I talk to just aren't aware of the change!

It seems to me that this is less about the Veterans ability to sponsor this even and more about turning a simple fireworks show into a money making event, and although this is being billed a free event I wouldn't be surprised if in the near future there was a charge for admission.

One can only imagine that this will in many ways be similar to Fall River Celebrates America. And the fact that Fall River Celebrates will take place at the same park just a few weeks later. is reason enough to keep with simpler tradition at Kennedy Park.

1 comment:

semass said...

I too lament the moving of the fireworks from Kennedy Park. Not only will the atmosphere created at lower Kennedy be lost but also lost for those who viewed the display from upper Kennedy, the steps of St. Anne's Church and porches, windows and back yards all over the south end and Maplewood sections of the city.