This World, Then the Fireworks

Those of us who live near Invesco Field are used to humongous, obnoxious fireworks displays this time of year. I'm not talking about the official ooh-aah stuff at Coors and after lacrosse games at the stadium; I like a brief shower of phosphorus as much as the next guy. But the illegal, annoying racket that goes on every night for half of June and well after the Fourth in parks and backyards and alleys — hiss of pop-bottle rockets, rat-a-tat of strings of Black Cats, percussive thud of cherry bombs and M-80s — that's the real charm of what the dailies have been touting as Denver's hottest zip code.

The west side tends to embrace Cinco de Mayo and the Fourth of July with equal patriotic fervor and idiocy. The cops, however, show some favoritism; on May 5 they seal off Federal Boulevard as if Dubya was having a very private pep rally there. But fireworks enforcement has always been a lame joke. Every year the police get the word to the stooges at the TV stations that they are really, really going to crack down on amateur pyrotechnics this year, handing out thousand-dollar fines right and left. And every year they basically ignore the goobers who squat behind my house igniting piles of the stuff and sending flaming rockets arcing over my roof.

Regardless of the official line of zero tolerance, illegal fireworks are a low priority to the Denver police. That's what besieged residents find out when they call the cops to complain. Low priority, they say. Just deal with it. Motorcycle revving, flagrant tobacco use within a hundred feet of a school, graffiti, aggressive begging with or without halitosis — all these will bring swift action, but not fireworks.

If you press, pointing out the vast numbers of sensitive dogs, innocent children and light sleepers terrorized by this annual flaunting of the noise and fire hazard laws, they will concoct one excuse after another for not bothering to even cruise around and hand out a few tickets. You need to file a complaint, they say, naming a specific party and address. "A party of twenty drunks armed with Roman candles and pipe bombs in the park across the street" isn't good enough. Their logic seems to be, gee, we're getting hundreds of calls, so let's make the complainants fill out a bunch of paperwork and further jam up the enforcement process.

Last night one demoralized officer — the only one assigned to patrol over here, it seems — finally admitted that the chances of a car showing up to check out the incessant explosions in Hallack Park were minimal.

This morning I walked through the park, kicking aside the detritus: firecracker confetti, spent cardboard casings of monster fountains, beer bottles, wine jugs. The place was a sty. Next year I'll nail the suckers for littering. – Alan Prendergast

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun