Sunday, July 05, 2009
The Fireworks Competition
When I first moved to Round Rock, they didn't have fireworks in the park. Possibly because they didn't have the park. Old Settlers' Park was then on the southwest corner of IH 35 and RM 620. The pavilion stood where the abandoned Albertson's is, today. For the first few years we attended the Old Settlers' Reunion, the McDonald's wasn't even there, yet. The Old Settlers' Reunion was an annual event of the home-grown variety. The Light Crust Doughboys played, and there would be fiddle contests, a lot of barbecue, and maybe a chili cook-off, though I might be confusing that with a separate event held on the same site.
Eventually, somebody noticed that the park occupied a chunk of prime real estate, and the idea was born: "Look. Let's give the Old Settlers about 500 acres of farm land way out east of town, where nobody will ever want to go, and take this bit and put up a strip center on it." And, Lo and Behold: so it was.
The Old Settlers' Reunion morphed into The Old Settlers' Music Festival, a blue grass gathering that was all sorts of fun. So much fun that it quickly outgrew the facilities installed on the 500 acres of roughly mowed stubble and moved elsewhere. The Old Settlers themselves seem to have died off, leaving nothing at the park but the name.
As Round Rock grew, the park developed. Little League ball fields appeared, with bleachers and lights and everything. An RV park emerged. An artificial lake, stocked with something apparently worth fishing for, was installed. And then, with the advent of Dell Computers, came the Dell Diamond, home to first, a AA and then AAA ball team. Rumoured to be among the best minor league stadiums in the country, its installation allowed Round Rock to bill itself as "The Sports Capitol of Texas."
At some point, hike-and-bike trails, frisbee golf, and a water park were added, and all of a sudden, Old Settlers' Park is a fixture. As well, the city has grown out to it since the Diamond was built, so it's no longer in the back of beyond.
But, I still haven't got to the fireworks.
I think it may have been sometime in the first half of the 1990s that pyrotechnics first occurred. We used to have to drive to Georgetown for a professional fireworks display, and it was taking several hours to get out of San Gabriel Park afterwards. It was a huge relief to us, here in Round Rock, when some bright spark (heh) decided to establish a tradition of fireworks in Old Settlers' Park. The first year, it took two hours to get out after, but they eventually got the traffic flow down well enough that it really was worth going. Jim and I used to take Addy, the motor home, and whichever of my kids wanted to, and go in the back way, off Kiphen Road (now named Old Settlers' Boulevard). We would park the motor home in the Little League parking lot, set up a portable barbecue, pour out the bloody marys and enjoy. While too far away to hear much of the music, we could see the fireworks, and escape quickly when the last exploding whizzer was nothing but a wisp of smoke.
In recent years, fireworks have been more common. There is always a huge display at the Diamond, after each Friday home game. A month or so ago, the country radio stations began to advertise Freedom Fest--a concert on the Fourth at the Diamond, featuring Kelly Pickler and Jerry Jeff Walker. To be followed by fireworks.
Uh oh, said a little voice in my brain. Does this mean the City display is cancelled? How will that go over? Has Michael Dell taken over this town entirely?
My friend Kaye lives near enough to the Park to have a good view of the fireworks at the Diamond and those at the park, and she invited me over last night. We were all swivelling our necks like owls, trying to see as much as we could of the two separate displays, about half a mile apart.
Does nobody coordinate anything around here?
Not that I'm actually complaining, because fireworks are magic at any time, but it sure would have been nice if the displays had run consecutively, instead of concurrently.