Fourth of July 1999 – Stone Arch Bridge

nsfw-logoI had just moved to Minnesota as a new Assistant Professor, and was living in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood. On the July 4, 1999, I decided to see the fireworks at the nearby Stone Arch Bridge. I went early, enjoyed the warm summer’s afternoon, and slowly the crowd began to fill in this prime spot for fireworks viewing. There were couples, families, people of all ages, races, and stages of inebriation. On one side of me was an immigrant south-Asian family (the women in traditional costume), including a mom and her newborn child. On the other side a fifty-something guy (my guess a native Minnesotan), a bit on drunk side, with his girlfriend or second wife.

It’s about 8:30 pm, well before the fireworks get going, and the guy thought it would be fun to launch his own rockets off the north/east side of the Bridge. Having seen real fireworks, I never understood the need of people to launch their own, which are mere sparklers in comparison. The first rocket shoots off, makes some sort of pop noise, and there it goes into the water. The second he shoots off and it for some reason boomerangs back to the Bridge, whizzing by (and scraping) me (leaving burn-marks on my shirt) and lands on the blanket the south-Asian mom has laid out. It starts a small fire, which she puts out by beating it with her sandal.

Minneapolis's Stone Arch Bridge, Fall 1999

Minneapolis’s Stone Arch Bridge, Fall 1999

I am pissed, but she is furious, since it missed her baby by inches. The crowd, led by the mom, but including everyone else around starts yelling at the guy, basically asking the rhetorical question “what the hell is wrong with you? Get out.”. He stands there unfazed as a lynch mob begins to form, and he sort of shrugs. The yelling gets louder. His lady whispers to him to the effect that they better leave, and she escorts him off the bridge.

The riot was averted, and the real fireworks proceeded apace. They looked something like this:

I have not returned to fireworks at the Stone Arch Bridge, my preferred location is now Tower Hill, which is not nearly so close to the action, but let’s you see almost every firework display in the Metro area. Unfortunately the Hill is infested with mosquitos and smokers this time of year.