Small Town Fireworks – Yeah Right!

Disney World has spectacular fireworks – every single night.  We should know.  We have seen them multiple times.  There is just nothing quite like the quality and quantity of pyrotechnics they fill the skies with 365 nights a year.  Granted we have helped pay for many of them and we carry a little guilt about how that money went up in smoke – literally.  But no regrets.

The problem with Disney is that nothing can quite live up to their standards.  You will never be in a better amusement park, ride better rides, stay in nicer resorts or eat better food than what Disney offers.  The truth is – Disney sets a standard for entertainment that nothing can rival.  Lisa and I knew when we were told about the “spectacular fireworks show” being staged here at our campground that they would be boring and may not be even worth our time – being the arrogant, know-it-all, seen-it-all Disney-philes that we are.  But, we had nothing better to do so we took our lawn chairs and headed over to the lake front to get as good a view as possible for what was certain to a big exploding joke.

The “Spring Valley Campground” is, apparently, the place to be on the fourth of July in eastern Ohio.  Every camper and tent space was occupied over the long weekend and hundreds of others paid the five dollar entry fee to sit out under the stars for the big show.  People at Lisa’s work had even declared it to be the “must-see” event of the year and some had even asked to park near our camper just to secure a spot for their car.  I was certain that none of these yahoos had ever experienced anything like we had – we being such world travelers you know.  Well hold onto your sparklers folks!

First, I need to describe (the best way I can) the location of this “big show”.  A rather large, oval-shaped lake sits in the center of our campground with a spacious, grassy bank on one side and a wooded hill on the other.  The fireworks were set up to be launched along the shore in front of the wooded area and spectators gathered with their lawn chairs and blankets along the grassy bank opposite.  There really was not an obstructed view and my only fear was that these amateurs igniting the things – would launch one into the unprotected crowd just a hundred yards or so away.  Fortunately that did not happen.  At one end of the lake a temporary stage had been set up and a southern rock band played into the evening as the sun began to descend.  The unusually cold weather had Lisa and I wishing we had brought a blanket and some hot chocolate to keep warm.  As the band finished their set we heard “The Star Spangled Banner” being sung by the lead singer and we assumed the show was about to begin.  After a brief interlude, the band returned for several more songs and mercifully announced they were going to be wrapping up their concert with a crowd favorite – even encouraging people to sing along.  I guessed they were going to do a version of “God Bless the USA”.  Instead they broke into their big finale – wait for it – “Sister Christian”.  That’s right – “Sister Christian”.  Our patriotic juices flowed.

As the anthem finally (and mercifully) ended we noticed fireworks being launched across the lake and to say they were mediocre is overstating their impact.  I have seen more impressive bottle rockets. The low flying sparklers were launched one at a time for the next five minutes and then suddenly the show was over – or was it?  We could see more fireworks on their launching pads along the shore across the lake set to launch and (I was sure) amaze everyone.  You could almost hear Lisa’s eyeballs rolling.  And so the wait began.  As the night grew colder Lisa and I were not sure it would be worth freezing over.  By the looks of the preliminary show we were, in fact, certain it would be smarter to watch fireworks on ‘YouTube’.  But we waited.  And waited.  And waited.

Fifteen minutes passed and still we waited.  People in the crowd began muttering about technical problems. Men with flares moved along the shore across from us and we watched and wondered why the long delay.  Another fifteen minutes passed.  By now Lisa was scrunched up in her seat trying to not freeze to death and I had stretched my sweatshirt over my knees like a little girl waiting for the school bus on a cold October morning. People started shouting across the lake at the fireworks crew.  One yelled, “Hurry up! I’ve got to pee!”  Chants started up, “Fireworks!”, “Fireworks!”, “Fireworks!”.  Still nothing happened.

Finally Lisa and I decided we had enough.  We folded our chairs and started walking back toward our camper.  My thought was that the thousand or more people still waiting would be rioting soon if something didn’t happen and it may be better to get home now before the real shooting started.  As we walked up the grassy slope toward the road we heard “The Star Spangled Banner” again being played – this time a recorded version. Perhaps the organizers were trying to calm the agitated crowd with more music but, as the anthem neared its end, fireworks flew into the sky across the lake cascading into an impressive red, white and blue spray.  The show was finally underway.  Lisa and I unfolded our chairs and sat down again to watch what was certain to be a massive disappointment.

‘Holy Mother Of All That Explodes!’  Over the next thirty minutes our little campground was transformed into Valley Forge, Gettysburg and Epcot – all in one.  Explosions of color filled the sky and lit up the wooded hillsides as rocket after rocket soared into the night.  At several points during the show the rockets propelled out of their canisters in machine gun like speed bursting over the lake in massive explosions.  Multi-colored bursting bombs of red, green, blue, silver and gold dazzled the onlookers as Lisa and I sat completely stunned.  Clouds of smoke-filled the entire valley and at times covered the on-coming explosions underneath.  Enormous cascades of fire drifted down from high above – at times nearly reaching the water below while others crossed the sky and each other in comet-like streaks of white.  And that was just the first five minutes. Over the next twenty minutes there was no pause from the pyro-technic onslaught.  We were not just impressed – we were in stunned, mouth-gaping shock.  I was certain we would find dead fish floating on the lake the next morning from all the gun powder dropping into the water.

The show continued until finally the grand finale sent balls of fire from the docks that stretched out into the lake while more were simultaneously launched from the shore. In a final burst of pyrotechnic magic – blasts of fire flew from the trees on the hill (Yes, you heard that right – they were launched out of the trees on the hill) and all exploded in a burst of color and flash that would make Francis Scott Key proud.  Un-freakin-believable!  I stood and whistled and cheered as the show ended and the smoke drifted over the lake below.  The men (and woman perhaps) who had launched the fireworks waved their orange flares above their heads to the cheers of a standing ovation and then threw them into the lake.  How cool was that?

Lisa and I walked back to our camper in almost stunned silence.  Finally I said it.  “That was as impressive as Disney.”  She agreed.  The only thing missing from the “Spring Valley Campground” fireworks show in Cambridge Ohio was Cinderella’s Castle.

And they may have that here next year.

Love, Steve and Lisa


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