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Fourth of July 2021

Started: 2021-07-17 21:23:52

Submitted: 2021-07-17 23:29:08

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator observes the Fourth of July

This year the Fourth of July fell on a Sunday, which also happened to be two weeks after California officially threw off most of its state-wide COVID restrictions. Most of my household was fully vaccinated, but the vaccine is still not approved for six-year-olds so Julian has not yet been vaccinated. Things had begun to consider returning to something resembling normal, but with vaccine rates stalling and some uncertainty around the Delta variant (which seems to be more contagious than the original, but not otherwise any more dangerous), many cities and towns had not yet resumed their normally-scheduled Fourth of July celebrations.

For breakfast, Kiesa made doughnuts; Julian decorated his with red, white, and blue sprinkles. In the afternoon I organized an expedition to Scotts Valley to watch their parade, running down a stretch of Scotts Valley Drive through the middle of town parallel to highway 17.

Jaeger, Calvin, Kiesa, and Julian wait for the Scotts Valley Fourth of July parade
Jaeger, Calvin, Kiesa, and Julian wait for the Scotts Valley Fourth of July parade

After some minor confusion when we discovered that the curb we were sitting at was not actually part of the parade route (when the barricades to block the street finally went up ten minutes before the expected start of the parade, forcing us to relocate down the street), the parade started by an acrobatic fly-over of a group of eight planes, flying back and forth over the parade route.

Stunt planes fly over Scotts Valley
Stunt planes fly over Scotts Valley

The rest of the parade was on the ground, running down one side of Scotts Valley Drive and then turning around to head back down the other side. The parade started with a group of Boy Scouts marching down the street, who carried a banner to identify themselves; many of the groups that followed them were somewhat less well signed. There were groups driving various kinds of cars (sports cars, four-wheel-drive vehicles); various local law enforcement groups; old tractors from an agricultural history museum; and a group of old Volkswagen, some outfitted with surf boards. There were a couple of normal-looking parade floats as well, though they seemed almost out-of-place with all of the other cars in the parade.

Old Volkswagen heading to surf
Old Volkswagen heading to surf

One of the last entries was a stunt vehicle involving a dirt bike that jumped up onto the trunk of an old beat-up sedan, drove up a little ramp attached to the rear window and over the sedan, then dropped down another ramp over the windshield and down onto the street. The sedan would drive down the parade route a few meters then the dirt bike would mount the car in reverse, starting with the hood and dropping off the trunk.

Stunt bike climbs onto sedan
Stunt bike climbs onto sedan

This seemed to be a fixture at the parade; while trying to research the parade in advance to get useful details about where it was and where I should park all I could find was news stories with pictures of this particular stunt vehicle.

Stunt bike hops off sedan
Stunt bike hops off sedan

One thing I did not expect to see was candy thrown from the cars that drove past. Most entries threw handfuls of candy at us, which the kids enthusiastically collected and dropped in a large pile on the sidewalk. This, too, seemed to be a fixture, because other people brought grocery bags and Halloween baskets to collect the candy thrown from the parade.

Candy haul in progress
Candy haul in progress

The whole thing lasted about an hour, then we headed back to the car but drove to the other side of Scotts Valley to get a late-afternoon ice cream and boba snack, which seemed appropriate for a hot summer day (and, if I want to over-interpret the dessert, eating ice cream (the kids), boba tea (me), and ice cream mixed with boba tea (Kiesa) was just the thing for an American holiday celebrating our multi-cultural mixing-pot immigrant nation).

For supper I grilled burgers and we ate outside on the patio, with potato salad providing a hint of picnic for the meal.

The lingering effects of the pandemic, combined with the threat of wildfire in the midst of a drought threatening a summer of wildfires, canceled all of the fireworks displays in Santa Cruz County. The nearest fireworks were in Santa Clara (at Great America) and in Gilroy. Calvin lost interest in fireworks when I told him we'd have to drive forty-five minutes to the show, but Julian enthusiastically signed on. (San Francisco's fireworks show returned this year but I didn't think I wanted to go all the way there only to risk not seeing any actual fireworks in the fog.)

All of the official information about the fireworks display at Great America (including newspaper listicles mentioning the fireworks) only mentioned the official park admission as the only obvious way to see the fireworks show, but it seemed that we ought to be able to see the show from somewhere outside the park, if only I could figure out a good place to watch from (which I remember doing, as a kid growing up in the Bay Area in the 1980s). I looked at the map and tried to figure out where good places to see the fireworks would be; then stumbled on a Reddit post suggesting Fuller Street Park, immediately east of the park in the middle of a neighborhood.

People wait for fireworks in Fuller Street Park
People wait for fireworks in Fuller Street Park

Julian and I headed up and over the mountain and dropped into the Santa Clara Valley and headed for the little neighborhood behind Great America. As we approached the neighborhood it was clear that everyone else had the same idea: the streets were full of cars, but I was able to park on the street a few blocks away. The park itself was comfortably full: many people had masks and there was a festive air. Everyone was sitting positioned to watch the sky to the west, where I could see the top of a couple of rides on the horizon above the neighboring trees and high-tension power line.

As soon as we sat down, Julian ran off to play in the playground, returning briefly to check in twice before disappearing again. He returned to sit and watch the display from our camp chairs as soon as the fireworks kicked off, a few minutes after their posted start time of 20:45, when the evening sky to the east was still lit from the recently-set sun.

Fireworks in Santa Clara
Fireworks in Santa Clara

The show went on for about twenty minutes, dazzling us with its precision pyrotechnics (including the occasional new-fangled shaped firework, looking kind of like a star if one looked at it right). Julian asked what the fireworks were and they worked, and I tried to explain.

Fourth of July fireworks finale
Fourth of July fireworks finale

After the show ended, Julian ran off to play in the playground again, giving me time to pick up the camp chairs and watch the informal fireworks display on the street in front of us. I retrieved Julian from the playground and we headed back to the car, only to get stuck in traffic leaving the neighborhood. The neighborhood was pinned in on three sides (Great America to the west, Levi's Stadium to the north, Capitol Corridor tracks to the east), leaving only a couple of streets where one could enter and exit the neighborhood to the south. Based on some dubious advice from Google Maps, I made my way to the east side of the neighborhood (past more informal fireworks displays), where I promptly got stuck in another line of slow-moving traffic. When I finally got to the front I saw the problem: my street was trying to merge into traffic merging onto the main road bordering the neighborhood, but we were doing so without the benefit of any traffic control, so we could only merge when the light on the cross street was green and we could squeeze into oncoming traffic. I saw an opportunity to squeeze into oncoming traffic and took it, finally exiting the neighborhood and setting us on the path to home after seeing the fireworks.

nightly chats with bin laden would be better
- Scott Galvin, about Jaeger's nightly jobsearch talks with his parents,
14 October 2002