Bang! Boom!

Fire is fascinating. Even if you are terrified by fire, it holds you in some amount of awe. Fire is the total destroyer, the giver and taker of life, which brought us out of the wild and gave us civilization. I know I’m sounding like a firebug, but I’m sure I wouldn’t be far off in saying that most people, at one time or another, have played with fire (and I mean in the literal sense here). It’s part of human nature, built into our genetic history. Even now, as a terrible wildfire consumes acreage in southern Alabama, we flock to our neighborhood fireworks hut, hastily constructed to feed our annual (or bi-annual if you include New Year’s Eve) lust for exploding trinkets. We will ration out those trinkets in the days leading up to “the big one,” like junkies with a valuable stash. Then, when the glorious time comes, we will gather en masse and all turn toward the same geographical point, like a slightly buzzed group of pilgrims facing Mecca. We will wait, expectant faces turned upward toward our metal god in the deepening dark, and when those faces are finally illuminated by the multi-colored glow from the pyrotechnics, we will be united for one moment as a city with a common goal—to enjoy watching things blow up.

Of course, there are other nobler reasons to celebrate the Fourth of July. Hooray for the founding of the United States! Hooray for the often-mentioned Founders and their ink-full instruments! Hooray for soldiers and their bravery! Hooray for what stability our crumbling nation has left. Hooray for a day off from work, and a long weekend. Hooray for fiery distractions. Hooray for you. Hooray for me. Hooray.

Here’s a thing—did you know that the only two signers of the Declaration of Independence to become president, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, died on the same day (July Fourth, 1862), the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration? I love Wikipedia.

There will be plenty to do around town leading up to (and during) the Thunder on the Mountain fireworks display, which will start at 9 p.m. and last for about a half-hour. Here is a list of various holiday events you can attend, if you can spare even a second from your regimen of bottle rockets, roman candles and M-80s:

Southeastern Outings 4th of July Picnic
UAB Campus Green, University Boulevard between 14th St. South and 16th St. South.
7 p.m.

Get a prime seat for the summer band concert and knosh on some grub at this outdoor picnic, sponsored by Southeastern Outings, a nonprofit organization “committed and created to serve people who enjoy being active in the outdoors,” according to their website. You will need to bring your own blanket and chairs, and any necessary picnic supplies, including food and beverages. Alcohol, smoking and dogs are prohibited. Free.

Fourth of July Barbecue Festival
Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, 1728 Oxmoor Road.
10 a.m.-3 p.m

Our Lady of Sorrows will host the 62nd annual barbecue festival, the longest running barbecue festival in the state, featuring games, music and 5,000 pounds of barbecue. Attendees can browse through a rummage sale and enter a raffle to win a 2011 Toyota Yaris. All event proceeds go to the church’s building fund, school, charity fund and Knights of Columbus.

UAB Summer Band Concert
UAB Campus Green, University Boulevard between 14th St. South and 16th St. South.
7:30 p.m.

The UAB Summer Band, which is made up of 75 musicians from all walks of the Birmingham area, will put on a free concert on the UAB campus green for the Fourth of July. There will be a variety of patriotic and pop music, and the band will sell chances to conduct “Stars and Stripes Forever.” $2 for one chance or $5 for three chances to conduct the band. (205) 934-7376.

“Jazz in the Park.”
Caldwell Park, Highland Avenue at 26th St.South.
5 p.m.

Though this technically isn’t a “Fourth of July” event, it’s on the day, okay? Magic City Smooth Jazz will put on this month’s Jazz in the Park show at Caldwell Park. The show will feature the Neo Jazz Collective, Fred Spraggins, the Birmingham Sax Trio, Van Burchfield, James Crumb, Jr. and Dwight Houston. Free.

“Independence Day 1776.”
American Village, 3727 Highway 119, Montevallo
Noon-9:30 p.m.

Have a theatrical Fourth at American Village, a Colonial-style village to the south of Birmingham. Costumed impersonators of historical figures like George Washington, Patrick Henry and Abigail Adams will relate the story of the birth our nation. At 9 p.m., there will be an “up close and personal” fireworks show, accompanied by live, patriotic music played by the Montevallo Community Band.

Flag Making & Parade
Oak Mountain State Park, 200 Terrace Dr., Pelham
10 a.m.

For all you early risers who are looking for a morning holiday activity, I suggest you head out into the wilderness of Oak Mountain State Park. At 10 a.m., meet at the Campground Pavilion to make flags and other patriotic crafts, and then parade around the campground in all your spangled glory.

In summation, here are some photos of things exploding that ought to get you in the holiday spirit:

Sam George is the managing editor of Birmingham Weekly. Please send your comments to

Orig­i­nally printed in Birm­ing­ham Weekly on June 30, 2011.

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