The climax is unquestionably impressive.
But there’s another moment Tub Daze fireworks veterans look forward to annually, kind of a pre-climax climax, if you will.
It begins with a huge orange blast, high in the sky above the pier. Subsequent strategically-spaced detonations follow, and rather than disappearing noisily into the night, hang together to build a massive pyrotechnical collage stacked hundreds of feet high, majestically reflected in the waters off Port Burwell’s East Beach, and in the hoots, yells and applause of an appreciative crowd assembled in an anchored flotilla, on the sand, either side of the harbour, up the hill towards (ironically when you think about it) downtown, and the bluffs to the east.
A glossary of North American fireworks terms suggests the extended visual effect may be called ‘the willow’, slowly falling ‘flaming orange leaves’ in the shape of the water-loving tree. One anticipates the existence of an appropriate oriental Feng shui-ish equivalent, describing the positive Qi of a spaced and well-aligned moment in which fireworks fans realize their drive both to – and from – Port Burwell has been ultimately worthwhile.
Blow it up and they will come. Blow it up real good – and they will come in droves.
“Very pleased (with the crowd),” said Port Burwell Recreation Society and Port Burwell/Otter Valley Optimists Secretary/Treasurer Deb Travis Sunday evening along the East Beach, reporting the Victory Fireworks crew was ‘raring to go’ with the show, and as an aside, very impressed with regards to The Municipality of Bayham’s completed pier reconstruction project.
“They were very complimentary,” said Travis.
The decision to forgo a beer tent for Tub Daze 2013 may have been construed as a negative in some quarters, but may also lead to more of a family-friendly atmosphere. In the short term at least, the absence of a secure, fenced area also opened up the beach in a physical sense.
“There is a lot more traffic through the area, definitely,” said Travis.
The fact the aromatic scents of frying onions, popping kettle corn and smoky southern barbecue wafted on the night air meant a significant portion of that traffic hung up in front of an array of food vendors including Up In Smoke BBQ, where roughly 400 pounds of on-site smoked meat (pork butts, brisket and ribs) had been pretty much gnawed to the bone across two days.
“Very happy,” said co-owner Cory Matthews. “Saturday went fairly well and we probably tripled today what we did Saturday, today was a way better day.”
Matthews attributes the differential in part to the cancellation of the beer tent, figuring both days would have been roughly equal, had it been retained.
“Because Saturday is beer tent day. People come to the fireworks on Sunday, but Saturday it’s the beer tent.”
The presence or lack of a beer tent is less of an issue for Jeannine Richter at the mobile M&R Orchard booth, with genuine homemade European-style gelato, slushies and cotton candy on offer.
“People come here anyway for the beach and at the night, the fireworks, and the beer tent crowd is not our customers anyway.”
Numbers were up this year over last, said Richter, based she believed on better weather. In any event, she says Sunday is historically busier than Saturday, a fact to which a couple of vendors may not have been attuned, leaving after the first day.
“They didn’t know it picks up on Sunday. It comes as a package, you take the good with the bad or the bad with the good.”
Based on her results, Richter will happily return for Tub Daze 2014.
“If they have it, yes, definitely. Gotta support our local events, right?”
Numbers were also solid at the traditional Sunday morning firemen’s breakfast, despite the physical absence of pancake flipping fixture Tom Millard (65 consecutive years), in transit from a Northwest Territories fishing trip spent hauling in lake trout and Arctic grayling. With Millard’s picture clipped to lapels and aprons, his firefighting colleagues carried bravely on, seating and sating a capacity crowd.
“Tom was there in spirit,” laughed municipality fire chief Gord Roesch, noting roughly 300 adult tickets were sold. “Easy with the kids, add another 100.
“We were busy all day - I’d say we were full.”
Millard made it home in time to join Roesch and company, proffering firefighters’ boots to collect contributions from the throngs heading beachward to enjoy what essentially is a donation-funded fireworks display.
To be fair, the only year a significant financial shortfall existed was that in which a fire call coincided with the collection period, an eventually since covered off by a backup team. Although Travis won’t be officially relieved until final totals are in, preliminary indications appeared positive for Tub Daze to reach its 30th anniversary in 2014.
“The donations should be there,” Travis concluded. “And except for that one year, they have been in the past.”