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Outtakes Around the Lake: Non-firework ’fireworks’ and luminaries glow

Frank Weaver Jr.
Suburbanite correspondent
Frank Weaver Jr.

Only the good people of the Portage Lakes have the capability of putting together last minute individual actions as if they were heavily coordinated to save what otherwise might have been a boring national holiday weekend.

In my dreams the other night, I envisioned that at sometime down the road this year's July 4 Portage Lakes celebration just might end up as a trivia question on some nationally televised quiz show such as Jeopardy. Do you think Alex Trebek knows where the Portage Lakes are?

The query that flooded my dreams and asked by Trebek was, “What community put on the first “no-boat-parade” boat parade, the nation's first “non-firework” firework show and the first “okay-to-use” luminary lights without any political, community, profit or non-profit organization backing them?”

The answer, of course, would be, “What are Ohio's Portage Lakes?”

If you missed the unexpected fireworks and surprising luminaries, you missed a sweetheart of a show. From one end of the lakes to the other lakeside residents sent a message to the powers that be. “We want our July Fourth fireworks,” they shouted loud and clear. Actually, they never shouted it. They never even said it nor did the mumble it. They sent it, instead, with separate firework bombardments, the likes of which we rarely see.

Everywhere the skies were lit with multi-colored explosions. If one didn't know it, they would have thought the Portage Lakes Fireworks Association was given a final reprieve from the ODNR and allowed to put on their annual $50,000 firework extravaganza. But Dano Mundy and his talented crew respected the ODNR's order and had nothing to do with this year's display. The simple fact is that they were all launched by individuals who live along or close to the lakefront.

And there were many, many boats out watching the displays. Surprisingly, they all maintained the state's required six feet minimum social distancing. But then you didn't need a boat to view them. These weren't rockets that just climbed twenty feet, spit a few sparks and then fizzled out. These, folks, were the real McCoys. They soared high in the sky and lit the night sky with an array of colors, palm trees, twinkling stars and other imaginative images. And it went on for almost an hour. And the luminaries were equally impressive.

All along the shoreline folks set luminaries out. The soft glowing light shimmering off the rippling waters was enough to put many in a romantic frame of mind. As far as I could tell, it too was unorganized. The people, knowing the boat parade and fireworks were canceled by the ODNR, also acted individually. They bought white paper lunch bags, filled them with an inch or two of sand or dirt, set a votive candle in the center, placed them between six and ten feet apart alongside the waterfront, and then at dusk they lit the candles.

AnnaMay Wilson who lives a block from the waterfront thought the fireworks were as good as any she has seen here on the Fourth. Even though she is my granddaughter, I won't go that far with praise. But for individuals launching them, they did quite a commendable job.

“Those fireworks symbolize a great celebration that many here in the Portage Lakes love from year to year,” AnnaMay said, “and it has been carried on through all those years from those who have loved it since the beginning.”

“And Grandpa, the luminaries were dreamy,” she gushed, and then added, “It's a beautiful way to celebrate and contribute with little effort that makes a difference, and for some are nostalgic of years past.”

That they are, young lady. They certainly are. But for many more, this years boat parade, luminaries and fireworks will be a year they could hardly forget. That's because it was done on the spur of the moment.

And sometimes those kind are the best.

Comments may be emailed to: Frankweaverjr@aol.com