Whether you’ve just bought a house and moved to the Hudson Valley region, or you’re a weekend visitor checking out real estate in Woodstock & surrounding communities as a potential place to put down some roots, attending a July 4th holiday celebration is a grand way to get a feel for the wide scope of your potential new community. On Independence Day Weekend the skies fill with dazzling displays in multiple towns, and there are many vantage points for your eyes.
Depending on your mood, you can view the extravaganza with high energy or a more relaxed fashion. I’ve joined organized family-style picnickers determined to find a primo spot for the fireworks. This means thinking ahead, packing baskets of food and blankets and low folding chairs and arriving early enough to nab a good parking space for the big displays in Kingston, New Paltz, Ellenville, The Mohonk Mountain House or Saugerties.
Enjoy Fireworks View from Keegan Ales
My favorite casual way to see the fireworks is to watch the display from afar, from the ease and comfort of the Keegan Ales parking lot and outdoor tables. Relax with friends and pints of home-brewed Mother's Milk in hand, a dark and silky stout. The longer you’ve lived in the Hudson Valley, the more “secret spots” you find for lazy man’s fireworks. And as you make friends, anyone with a rooftop or other high hill vantage point will offer their spot.
Waterfront Fireworks Displays
On a more adventurous July Fourth, I stuffed a little blow-up kayak in my car, and joined up with a boat brigade launching from the Kingston Port—skiffs and kayaks all paddling out into the Rondout to watch the fireworks stealth-style, which offers an amazing vantage point, especially for firework waterfall cascade off the bridge, rows of silver sparks in horizontal fountain strings. This experience, complete with gently rolling waves and ricocheting reflections in the night sky, is one of the best.
The Gallo Waterfront Park in the Historic Kingston Rondout offers a park party with bands and food. Kingston has fireworks pride that goes way back. As any Old Timer is likely to say: “Well it was OUR city that burned!” (Kingston was New York’s Capital in the late 1700s, and was burned by the British.) Town characters like “Uncle Willy” Guldy come out for the parade, in his red white and blues, all the while insisting he *isn’t* Uncle Sam.
Hudson Valley Community Fireworks Displays
The various towns have a healthy competition to lure people to their displays. The Kingston pyrotechnic event team works with Chinese experts to build out their display so that each year tops the previous one with brilliantly choreographed surprises. The art of the display involves a fascinating range -- barrages, bee swarms and clusters, blinker strobes, ever-expanding blossoms, rocketing comets, wiggling fish fireworks that swim away in the sky, complicated brocades, butterflies, Catherine wheels, spiders, shooting stars -- climaxing in the transcendent finale. For me, the best part is the subtle afterglow of each effect, the fading traces of light that diminish and vanish slyly into the night.
And this year the Accord Speedway on Whitfield Road is throwing a July 3rd Friday night benefit bash of stock car racing, dance party, and chicken BBQ. The proceeds will go to Sparrow’s Nest, a non-profit that delivers food to cancer patients. Your $15-dollar admission fee goes to a good cause, plus kids get in for only a buck!
If you’re more of a day person, Ellenville and Saugerties have parades at noon followed by fireworks at dusk. Mohonk Mountain House offers spectacular grounds to explore and events for children all weekend. (See more details for all these events in the link below)
Host Your Own 4th of July Celebration
And for the truly lazy who would sacrifice pageantry for convenience now can have their own moderate display of fireworks without leaving home. In November, Gov. Andrew Cuomo allowed New York counties to adopt their own local laws permitting the sale and possession of sparklers and novelty devices (including caps for toy guns, snappers and party poppers).
Instead of having to trek to Pennsylvania, we can now purchase ground-based or hand-held sparkler devices that produce a shower of colored sparks, flames, crackling, whistling and smoke during two periods each year between June 1 and July 5 and between Dec. 26 and Jan. 2. You won’t be sending shooting bottle rockets into the sky as fireworks that or rise up into the air, explode or produce a report are still not permitted, but you can still get a burst of color and light closer to terra firma.
Whatever your feelings of Independence Day, personal or patriotic, whatever your mood in any given year, the Hudson Valley offers a range of choices, from family-style to adventurous to romantic to lazy man’s. Come out and meet your community!
Here is a handy link to pick your spot for this weekend’s rollout of sparks: