In and around Chicago, you’d think that the 4th of July had already passed. This pyromani–er, freedom-loving town has been setting off black cats, bottle rockets and hen-laying-eggs for weeks already. Light ’em if you’ve got ’em, right? That’s nothing new. What’s new this year is how few “official” fireworks shows there will be. Basically, our “official” choices are Navy Pier on July 2 and 4. But don’t let that quash your flint-filled fun
It’s the unsanctioned fireworks shows that I love. This is the only time of year that the north side of Chicago is transformed into a war zone. Parks around town fill with smoke, blasts reverberate off buildings, lighter-wielding children dart down alleyways ducking explosions. It may sound like an exaggeration, but it’s not. Flying spinners, ground spinners, fountains–you name it, they’ll burn it.
July 4 at Winnemac Park is a personal favorite. I’ve walked through this park around 11 p.m. on the 4th, surrounded by drunken flaming explosions, unable to see two feet in front of me because the smoke is so thick. I’ve looked on from a neighboring roof, listening to gun-like shots ring out, alternating between thoughts of, “Did someone just die?” and, “If I needed to shoot someone, this would be a good night to do it.” I’ve walked by alleys, only to see sinewy young boys blowing shit up and running away, squealing maniacally. These are some of my all-time favorite Chicago memories.
Is it dangerous? Yeah, ok, sure.
Messy? Absolutely disgusting. For days, the parks are filled with shrapnel and detritus and gunpowder.
Completely and totally endearing? No question. It’s better than any “sanctioned” fireworks show I’ve ever seen.
Cheboygan, Michigan and Sheboygan, Wisconsin can have their orchestrated flames. Here in Chicago, we like our flames with a little risk and a heaping side of eff yeah.