We need to rethink the whole St. Patrick’s Day scene.
Our national day couldn’t hold a candle to the celebrations I was witness to here in Lancaster, PA, as Americans from sea to shining sea celebrated their Independence Day.
That’s right, it’s the 4th of July and boy do they know how to ‘USA it up’ big time.
Now, I’ve seen fireworks before. Five minutes of starbursts over Bantry from the Maritime Hotel at New Years had us all enthralled. But you ain’t never seen fireworks until you’ve witnessed the 45-minutes of pyrotechnic madness that is the display put on by the good people of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
More about that later.
I arrived back from Gettysburg after spending four days neck-deep in all things Civil War; I was tired, hot and cranky. Then Marian, my sister-in-law, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
‘The ex-mayor of Lancaster has a few Civil War cannons. He said you can go and take a look at them if you want’, Marian offered.
I didn’t have to be asked twice. Charley, that’s the ex-mayor, was getting some of his guns ready for the 4th of July celebration at the local public park and said we could go along and see the guns being loaded on to the trucks that were to transport them to the park.
The guns were going to take the central part in the 1812 Overture just before the fireworks got underway.
We left the house and headed for downtown Lancaster. There, just off one of the many pretty streets, we came across ‘Jim’ working hard to secure a big 12-pound Napoleon smoothbore cannon on to the back of a low-loader.
Jim was outside a double-doored garage and he invited us to go in and take a look around.
Inside the garage there was arranged in neat rows enough cannon, cannon balls and shells to invade a small country. I stopped counting at 22. These were not like the cannon dotted around the battlefield at Gettysburg; these guns were all in working order and 16 of them plus a mortar were on their way to the local park.
These FEW cannon were in fact part of the largest privately owned Civil War cannon collection in the USA.
The guns are fired regularly and Charley has the facilities to cast his own ammunition. I’m trying to imagine something like this at home. Now that I think of it, maybe cannon collecting is a hobby one or two of our county councillors should think about?
Anyway, as we waited for the cannonade and fireworks to begin, we were entertained by the US Army Band ‘Pershing’s Own’.
Although, as my sister-in-law Marian said, it was strange to see people in uniform singing a medley of Beatles songs.
Then, with the 1812 Overture playing loud over the speakers, the cannon fired, the ground shook and the huge crowd went wild. As the applause for the Army Band and Charley’s cannon died down, the fireworks began.
Night became day as over and over again rockets climbed high above our heads to explode in multi-coloured balls of light and smoke. The noise was incredible, the light was incredible, the whole 45 minutes of explosive action left me wondering how much more of this I could take.
This is the way to celebrate the independence of a nation, with gun powder, cannon and a few patriotic songs for good measure.
So, here’s the plan. We move St. Patrick’s Day to the end of July or the first fine day in August.
We celebrate our national day with parties and music in all the public parks across the country, no drink is allowed in the parks, and we encourage our county councillors to bring along their cannon.
I think this could take off. I really do.