Fireworks And Fond Farewells

A random series of events put us in the middle of a small-town baseball field on the Fourth of July watching a fireworks display with hundreds of strangers. It started with the announcement that one of our favorite local rock bands, “Raging Wood” would be disbanding, their last performance to be the Fourth of July at Wanderoos, a small community a few miles north. I love this band, the likes of which I’ve never seen before. They have an eclectic play list—from Maggie Rose country to Led Zepplin rock (with a lot of surprises in between), and a great mix of talented musicians (FOUR lead vocalists trade off with songs that fit their individual voices and styles, and it’s a treat times four for the audience), add in the organ and harmonica, and you know you’re going to hear just about every dance-worthy genre. I knew we HAD to drag out of our comfort zones and go where no Hubbell has gone before: the Wanderoos Annual Independence Day Celebration.

Strangers at a small-town celebration stand out like corn stalks in the melon patch, but being from a small town ourselves, I thought we blended fairly well—despite the fact that everyone knew everyone else, and NOT US. We found a terrific location for our chairs and settled in for people watching until the music started. Since we parked ourselves on the main thoroughfare into the grounds, we were rewarded with lots of people passing by, one of whom was a recently crowned Little Miss, who gave us a nice princess wave as she walked by (in small-town Wisconsin, if you pass people lined up in chairs, you’re in a parade, behave accordingly).

The band started and for the next two hours, I was in live music nirvana. I requested Uriah Heep, knowing it would surprise our friend Joe, another sucker for live music, who had agreed to join us. As the minutes counted down to fireworks time, and the sound of fireworks from another nearby town echoed off the backboard of the ball field, I was disappointed that the music would end and I would miss hearing my requested song . . . but we WOULD have our sky show, at least.

After the last song, the crowd, knowing just where to go, headed to the center of the ball field. Our path lit by fireworks, we found a spot for our chairs and suddenly we were in front row seats for a terrific display. It struck me that we had stumbled into a most perfect depiction of America as we watched the show and heard the “oohs” and “aahs” around us. Our feet were planted in the dust of a field where America’s beloved baseball has been played for generations and we were surrounded by strangers who had accepted us in their midst; intrinsically linked by our citizenship and love of country.

Someone in the crowd set free a sky lantern and it floated high over the crowd to the part of the sky where the fireworks were being shot. As one, we couple hundred observers gasped when a rocket appeared on a collision path, but the lantern floated on and the rocket exploded into red, white, and blue showers as a backdrop. There was a burst of laughter and the sky lantern slowly disappeared into the smoky, misty sky. Not long after that, the finale burst with showers and fountains and it was over. Chairs and blankets and children were picked up and moved again, to the ball field gates.

People were setting up their chairs in front of the stage again, and I realized that the fireworks had just been the half-time entertainment. We hunkered in for more live music, hijinx (you haven’t heard “Born to Be Wild” until you’ve heard it accompanied by a motorcycle pulling up in front of the stage and revving the pipes), and for me, chair dancing. (MS may have taken my fancy footwork, but I’ll take any challenges to a chair dance-off!) I raised my son, Ozzie, on the best rock of the 1970s; in turn, he taught me to love the rock of the 80s and 90s. I learned the lessons well: when I hear Alice in Chains’ “Man in the Box”, I rock it out.

Finally, the big moment; Raging Wood saved the nearly best (to be fair, I couldn’t pick a “best” from this group) for nearly last, “this is Mary’s request,” and they launched into the first chords of Uriah Heep’s “Stealin’”, Joe’s favorite of their songs. I glanced over at him to get my reward: the surprise and delight on his face. I just have to say that A) It’s rare to hear a local band play Uriah Heep, and B) they nailed it, harmonies, organ, and all.

Just a few songs later, Raging Wood said their goodbyes to an appreciative audience of family, friends, and fans. As guitarist and vocalist Rick said to me “rock never stops”, and I hope it applies to all the members of the band. May they find success in all they do . . .


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