• Monica Montanari

Independence Day


Well, for this year's Fourth of July, I decided to take it back to my roots- or rather, drive up to my roots. My dad's cousins live in Southern Ohio, which is only about a 7 hour drive from Tuscaloosa (after driving cross-country, 7 hours is next-door neighbor status). When I was younger, my whole family used to fly out to Cincinnati from Los Angeles to go to their Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza- but now that my grandmother- who lived near there- passed away, I decided it was my privilege and responsibility to go back there and make sure our family keeps in touch. Plus, my cousins have an empty nest- so now I get to torture them all the time!!! So first of all, the drive. I left in the morning to drop my friend off in Mississippi along the way- and I am so glad I did. I cannot imagine a more special Fourth of July than one experienced from five different states in one day: Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio. Although I didn't make many stops along the way, I was able to get a real feel for the geography around here. Now, I'm not sure if this is just because it's summer and the rain gave the landscape a facelift or if it's like this all the time- but from what I've gathered, this part of the country is stunning. Breathtaking. There are no pictures to do it justice- and even just driving through is a shame. The vegetation is so lush that it has no option but to creep up the trunks of nearby trees and cover the entire side of the road in mystical green ivy. The only thing more charming than this is the rolling hills of green, open grass complemented by white picket fences and classic homes. This landscape is not only unique to Mississippi or Alabama alone- each of the states I drove through had moments of stunning beauty- and it really does remind me of Jason Aldean's song "Flyover States". Most of you, I dare to say, will never get the chance to actually put your feet in the mud here- so next time, I promise, I'll take more time to stop and snap some photos. Now on to the festivities: In Kentucky, fireworks are legal. Massive fireworks are sold on the side of the road, or in giant warehouses like Phantom Fireworks, a favorite of my family. The Strahm family, which includes tons of my dad's cousins and aunts and everything else, takes there motto "It's not over until we say it is" pretty seriously. This year, for their 19th annual backyard blowup, they promised to have their longest and move impressive show yet. Two hours later, I'm pretty sure they were right. Not only can they do the automatic shows that are set up to go off at exact times, but they also do their own hand-lit choreography. Let me put it this away, my West Coast friends, imagine the craziest fireworks show you've ever seen. Now multiply it by four times the time, subtract most of the cheesy patriotic music, add in some music from every different genre, and move it to 30 yards in front of your face. To say it's crazy would be a massive understatement. This is one of those things you have to see to believe. If youre up to the trip, next year will be the 20th anniversary- and if the 19th was crazy, just imagine the fifth-of-a-century celebration. Now to show you every little pyromaniac's dream store:

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