Vancouver loves its fireworks

by Bob Pember

Saturday night was the finale of yet another instalment of the HSBC Celebration of Light—an annual fireworks display that effectively shuts the city down while competing countries vie for gasps and kinked necks from the thousands watching on the beaches. Despite the congestion in the buses and parking lots and the high-alert presence of police officers, the shows did not disappoint this year: Vancouver enjoyed the distracting explosions even after sweating all day in the record breaking heat.

The Canadian team started off the contest on the 22nd with an attempt to match their coloured rockets to the music from The Wizard of Oz. Though the hometown crowd was pleased by their country’s contribution, they were soon blown away by the UK and China’s efforts the next week. Personally, I thought that the UK’s display was the best fireworks show I’d ever seen, but that lasted for three days and ended once I saw the precision and style of China’s execution. The Chinese gave the crowd a treat as they managed to expertly pair captivating lights with modern instrumentals. Saturday’s fireworks complemented their music better than any of the other team’s endeavours: the display was an expression of the music instead of simply blowing off red, green and white flares on top of a classical piece.

Those who have lived in the city during the fireworks over the last nineteen years know that a large portion of the citizens of Vancouver get somewhat crazed once the fire in the sky starts. Since back when it was Benson & Hedges Symphony of Fire the event was effectively a yearly drinking binge for those in Vancouver’s late-teen, early-adult demographic, and an opportunity for summertime lunacy once the shows end and everyone finds themselves in a drunken exodus from downtown and Kits beach. That’s why if you made it down to Kits you saw more police officers than glow sticks. The ever-blunt vigilance of Vancouver’s robotic police force was not about to let one square metre go without patrol and an accusing blank glare. Event the transit security brought out the reserves and delayed each B Line bus at each stop while they grimaced at the passengers and scoured for signs of discreet drinking and any potential tomfoolery brooding.

This year did prove to be one of the tamest and pacifistic shows, but I think we could handle a little bit less authority leering over all of our shoulders—especially when you’re already crammed into an over-stuffed bus in the middle of the hottest summer we’ve ever seen. As much as I love being shoved out of the way by someone in a faux-cop uniform just so they can see if it’s actually water in the teenager’s Dasani bottle, I’d rather run the risk that the kid might be drinking and have us all get to the beach with as little of other people’s sweat on our clothes as possible.

But I suppose the policing isn’t about to go anywhere, especially now that they’re seeing results in their battle against hooliganism, so next year I’ll have to drink my beer out of a coffee mug again and just enjoy the rocket’s red glare.

Head to UQ Events for listings of great shows like Vancouver’s Celebration of Light.

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