Sorry for the blog lag here, but we escaped to Cedar Lake for a blissful 10 days that went by in a blink. The days began with some of the best babyback ribs I've ever tasted in my life, courtesy of friend Seth Roxberg, whose parents, Dick and Ellie, have a place in Isle and invited us for a yummy Fourth of July picnic. Seth rubbed and sauced and smoked those ribs lovingly all day, then we fought the mosquitoes for them until we were stuffed. The next night, the Roxberg womenfolk joined us for our traditional Cedar Lake fireworks display.
Our neighbors on the bay, Ken and Jaci Gangl and their family, began the tradition when all of our kids were little. One of their friends, a pyrotechnician par excellance, got us all hooked on shooting mortars high in the sky over the lake. We had the only yard open enough not to burn up our cabins or our boats, so our yard has been the fireworks' stage ever since. Ken begins shopping early in the spring, then a few weeks before the fourth he wires and packs and sets all of these fuses and God knows what else. This year he had back surgery on June 30, so he got everything set before he went under. That's dedication.
It's probably illegal or something, but our lake association kicks in a good $500 or so for the fireworks, and everybody gets a half-hour of beauty and booms that rivals any professional display. Boats bob out in the center of the lake and honk their horns with appreciation. We hear "oohs" and "ahhs" and whoops and whistles after each launch. We all get a kick out of that. It's the highlight of the summer. Our kids still act like they're 10, planning their calendars around the fireworks, except now they pencil in the kind of beer they'll serve at this blessed event.
Before anybody gets all "you'll blow your hand off" over this post, know this: Ken wires the whole thing for remote control. It beats the days when he and a cadre of brave 40-something men (including my fire-obsessed husband) used to run around in the dark with blow torches to set these things off. (Rule of thumb: Never stand over a mortar to see if it's lit.) That really set my heart aflutter. All I could see was the headline: "Twin Cities father maimed in stupid fireworks display that he helped to orchestrate." Now the same 50-something guys can safely flip a few switches. And we do move the boats away from our dock. Maybe next year we'll set the thing to music. Or maybe we'll play some Sousa on an old boom box. We have to retain the event's "amateur" ambience; that's part of its charm.
This is one of those crazy traditions that make memories for children, just like the Fourth of July kiddie parade in Virginia, where I grew up. We used to dress up in costumes and decorate our bikes and parade the entire length of the main drag, Chestnut Street (from the mine pit all the way to Silver Lake, which seemed like miles when I was four feet tall) -- and at the end, people from the Chamber of Commerce or something gave each participant a quarter. For that quarter in 1964 or thereabouts, I marched down Chestnut in a hula skirt and a Hawaiian print bra when it was 36 degrees at parade time. Then I headed right to the Pic 'n' Pay and spent it all on candy. Which costs a lot less than Coors.