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A night for a city to feel high and mighty

Posted by Marcia Dick  July 1, 2011 10:05 AM

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Photo Courtesy Chris Conti Photography

The crowd watches the sky light up over Somerville.

Somerville held its fireworks display June 30, in Magoun Square. We were there.

8:05 p.m.: Walk down Medford Street while talking to mother on phone. "Why would you expect there to be a food component?" she asks. Pass first Italian ice truck.

8:10: Mother drowned out by disco. Am buffeted by teens wearing T-shirts that say things like "I Run the World," "Let It Be" and "You Don't Have to [thumbs-up] Like Me." Holy moly, where are we? Somerville has gone Jersey shore. A major road in this strenuously healthy city is lined with stands selling cotton candy, ice cream, fries, and fried dough. Bye, Mom. Realize the money shot of the night would be Mayor Joe Curtatone chowing on fried dough, confectioner's sugar on his nose.

8:20: The band, named Booty Vortex, pauses. "That was fun, huh?" one of the singers says — the singer with the go-go boots and red metallic Spandex. A man asks a vendor how much the whirly light-up toy costs. $10. He hands it to a little blonde girl whose face lights up with a smile. The vendor's name is Bubba. He is 19. His chin lights up with the reflection of his merch.

8:30: Hector Andrade, 39, leans against his house on Broadway. He's been to every fireworks display since Curtatone started the tradition in 2004. "It's really great. The fireworks have increased every year — they've got better and better and better," he says. His kids, however, are less enthusiastic. "They don't want to come out … 'It's the same thing every year!'"

8:40: Six, no seven, no eight and then nine senior ladies line the sidewalk. It's the St. Polycarp's girls of old Sacco's Bowl-Haven, soon to be bowling again in Ball Square! They're celebrating the birthday of unofficial leader Alice Kelley, who turns 69 on July 1. They had dinner at China Delight, then took the bus halfway and walked about a mile. "Gotta keep moving," Kelley says.

9:  "It's cool and it's — I don't know," says Christopher Hernandez of Somerville, 9, suddenly nervous about his moment in the press spotlight. He pushes something in his mouth and chomps. His mouth glows blue, green, and red. Sister Ericka, 2, pushes an inflatable Dora in her stroller. "It's a good idea to have the fireworks," dad Erick says. Christopher's favorite fireworks are the blue ones.

9:10: Jose Lazo of Somerville, 17, a fast-talker wearing a gold chain and Yankees cap, is there for "Excitement. It's not every day you see fireworks," he says. That and the community. "I'm a junior. All the seniors that graduated and left, I get to see them." How much of the crowd does he know? "Almost all of them, I think. Except," he adds, "for the adults."

LJ Scarcella of Somerville, 17 and in the 165-pound weight class, doesn't want to talk about fireworks. He wants to talk about the Cambridge-Somerville Boxing Club. "Taking the night off from the gym. I'm a boxer. I train six nights a week." His record is 7-0. He calls out, "Look for me — I'm going to be in the Olympics next year!"

9:20: Five minutes past the scheduled fireworks start time, the US Navy Northeast Show Band is crooning "My Funny Valentine." For Somerville, there is an exceptionally low percentage of beards and bikes. A friend calls. I say I'll be the one who's not a teenager.

Suddenly find the arts crowd: one mandolinist and then theater critic Bill Marx, Somerville resident and the first editor of yours truly. He asks if I need a quote. "Bigger than last year!" he trumpets. "Brings all Somerville together!" But perhaps I would prefer a darker take? No problem! He lowers his voice: "I sense an uneasiness here — the economy."

9:30: A tripod lifts a camera above the throng. "This is way crazier than I thought it would be," says professional photographer Chris Conti, 29. "The funny thing is I've lived here for like six years and I've never been here before."

9:40: Call it the cone before the storm: a dozen people wait at one of the soft-serve trucks. "Representing the greatest navy in the world!" Curtatone shouts hoarsely.

9:45: Friend arrives with bike and possibly the only Brooks leather bike saddle on the premises. Just in time.

9:50: The fireworks are tremendous: so much extremely louder and incredibly closer than the Boston show observed from a Somerville rooftop. There are all the whirligigs of our neighbor to the south. A squiggly 'work draws squeals; a red-white-and-blue one, yells. The recorded music over the PA plays "A duck can be somebody's mother." Someone has kicked an empty Sambuca Romano nip underfoot. There is a discussion of who pays. It's funded by the Sloane Family, NSTAR, and Cataldo Ambulance, the city alert says.

9:57: Remember earplugs. Apply them. Purple-and-gold fireworks hammer the low sky while smiley faces soar. Every time you think it must be the finale, the show continues. One very little boy covers his ears. Some slightly older boys howl in righteous fury. My friend laughs increduously. Who would guess that Somerville would put on such a show?

Finally, it's done. Everyone shuffles in a thick cloud, dazed, to "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight." The seniors in seats up front are warned to stay put. The river of people surrounds a lone SUV on Medford St. Motorcycles rev.

10:30: Arrive home. Twitter is full of people saying "Stupid Somerville. It's not even July yet!" Oh dear. What a waste it is, as Dan Quayle said before today's teens drew breath, not to have a mind. My beloved downstairs neighbors stand next to their moving van marveling over how loud the fireworks were. It takes an hour for the hooting and hollering teenagers to disperse. The rest of the country can start celebrating any time now. I think we're set here.

Danielle Dreilinger writes the Somerville Scene column. E-mail her and follow her on Twitter.

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