July 16, 2013

Editorial: Fireworks, flags and public behavior


---- — Large-scale community celebrations can represent, to borrow a line from Charles Dickens, the best of times and the worst of times.

The amount of volunteer effort that goes into decorating for and participating in parades, arranging concerts and firing off breathtaking fireworks is far beyond what the casual observer might expect.

And you never know what kind of conditions the actual celebration will be operating under — especially this summer, with its almost constant rain and thunderstorms.

Just look at the City of Plattsburgh’s Fourth of July parade, which started off in a downpour and drew to a close under sunshine and intense heat. The marchers and the crowds all stuck it out, with everyone, at the end, looking as if they had just stepped out of a swimming pool.

People who weren’t paid one cent spent months raising funds and planning for celebrations there are in places such as Essex, Keene, Lake Placid, Plattsburgh, Rouses Point, Saranac Lake, St. Regis Falls, Ticonderoga and Westport. If you live in communities that hosted events, consider dropping a note, making a call or posting on Press-Republican Facebook to let volunteers know they are appreciated.

Some of the efforts to promote a patriotic atmosphere are more individualized. For the third year, Peter Whitbeck and co-workers, friends and family crept out at about 6 a.m. July 4 to plant 3,300 small American flags on lawns across Plattsburgh. The almost 40 people involved in the Coldwell Banker/Whitbeck Associates effort had flags waving across all six wards in about an hour and 20 minutes.

The Whitbeck crew has done its part for patriotism with this “flash mob” decorating, having spent about $2,500 this year alone, and is winding down now. “We have made an effort to build community spirit with this,” Whitbeck told us. “Now we hope people will take the initiative to put flags on their own lawns (in 2014). We have tried to accomplish awareness and spirit.”

We encourage people to hang onto their U.S. flags and bring them out not only for July 4th but Memorial Day, Flag Day, Veterans Day and other occasions.

Even the best festivities have a downside, though, so we address the non-family-friendly behavior of some of the people attending fireworks and parades.

For the most part, spectators seem aware that the vicinity is packed with children — even at late hours, as kids stay up to see the fireworks. But some ignorant people don’t see any reason to refrain from smoking, swearing and drinking too much.

How awkward for parents to have to explain to their kids why the F-word is flying out of so many mouths or why the guy walking ahead of them is staggering. And when the air is full of cigarette smoke, everyone suffers.

Please, at future public events, use a little decorum, so the efforts of so many people to create a wholesome, fun atmosphere are not spoiled.