Last night, the best place in town for fireworks wasn’t Navy Pier. It wasn’t North Avenue Beach. It was Winnemac Park. I still taste the acrid flavor this morning. I can still smell it on my clothes.
“Beirut,” my brother-in-law texted me a little after 8 p.m., from his Lincoln Square home near the park. “It has begun.”
“The smoke is already billowing from Winnemac,” my sister texted. “Be careful!”
With that, we grabbed our flak jackets and entered the war zone.
You could hear it and see it long before arriving at the park. Explosions came from all directions, making a show of light and smoke. Hundreds of people stood on the park’s paths and sat in the grass, eyes to the sky. All around us were launchers, lighting up the night with colors, sounds and smells that, rationally, we should flee.
We were so immersed that we didn’t even know the cloud had formed around us. Then I took a few photos, and it wasn’t until we looked at the pictures that we realized we were deep inside a haze. It wasn’t a surprise. The fireworks went off on the baseball diamond to our left, behind the trees in front of us, near the school to our right. Some were giant weeping willows, dripping from the sky. Others sparkled like a Vegas showgirl, all but tossing out jazz hands for effect. Quite a few fizzled and burnt out. It’s the variety of Winnemac and the organic sense (along with the healthy dose of risk) that make this so much better than any professional show. This is the hearts and souls of our own pyromaniac neighbors on display, for all to see.
No ambulances showed up, so it’s safe to assume no fingers were lost, no eyes blown out. This was a great Fourth.