Wisdom of public fireworks display must be questioned

Last week, the Cottonwood City Council announced there will be strict enforcement this year of a state law banning personal fireworks. Use of such holiday explosives could land you in jail for 30 days and subject you to a $500 fine.

At the same time, the city will permit the public fireworks display at the Verde Valley Fairgrounds. That should suffice those with the holiday urge to see the night sky filled with fireworks displays. So goes the logic of city leaders.

It could, however, be just the catalyst for those who associate the Red, White and Blue with a can of Budweiser to retrieve the personal fireworks stash from the garage and join the party.

The old saying of what is good for the goose is likewise good for the gander may be the best policy for the city when it comes to this year's July 4 fireworks display. The message that playing with fire is a tragedy waiting to happen is one we hear on a daily basis, for good reason, right now in Arizona. The tragic fires in the White Mountains dominate our television newscasts. Those infernos, fire officials quickly remind us, were human-caused.

If we really want to get the message across that playing with fire is off limits, then the city needs to lead by example. That's what is happening in Flagstaff and Prescott. The latter will replace its traditional fireworks show with a laser light display.

It's not as if we don't have sufficient July 4 traditions in the Verde Valley to get us through just one holiday without a fireworks display. If you've never taken in an Independence Day morning at the Clarkdale Town Park, for example, you've never really experienced what small-town America, patriotism and July 4 family fun is all about.

There's a pancake breakfast, a rip-roarin' performance by the Cottonwood Community Band, all kinds of games in the park for the children and a Main Street parade where kids from 6 to 90 put on a patriotic strut that definitely will make you proud to be an American.

Take that shindig in and you'll leave feeling both mighty proud of your community and your country. If that's not the essence of what Independence Day is all about, then there is no sense in even acknowledging the holiday.

The best policy for Independence Day 2002 is safety. Granted, the fireworks display at the fairgrounds will be put on by professionals. We're in safe hands, under normal circumstances.

But as we all should realize by now, this is not a normal summer. Arizona is a tinderbox. Our state's leaders have beat us to death with the message that even the backyard barbecue can be a safety hazard.

Cottonwood officials are not going to do a good job of reinforcing that message by allowing a fireworks display this year.

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