At the risk of blowing the cover on yet one more Vashon Island secret, here's the Fourth of July, Vashon-Style!

[Fourth of July-Vashon Style!]

The Fourth of July fireworks celebration put on (as it recently became known, officially..) by Islander Tom Stewart for the last eight years is certainly one of the best-kept secrets in the Puget Sound basin.

Fireworks are shot from mortars on a barge anchored out in the middle of inner Quartermaster Harbor. Any place with a view of Quartermaster Harbor is a great place to watch; depending on how much mayhem you can stand, the best place to watch is from the shore of Quartermaster Harbor itself.

(I say mayhem, because there have been some years when sitting on the shore of Quartermaster Harbor to watch the Big Show has been like being in the middle of World War III as locals try to outdo each other in their personal fireworks displays, put on as warm-up acts before the Big Show gets underway! This year was pretty calm..)

This year (and for the last several years) the Vashon Island fireworks display is one of the two July Fourth shows on the West Coast to be firing-off a 24 inch shell! (The other is down in L.A. this year..)

The 24 inch shell is part of the finale, and is officially known as "The Silver Camuro Shell of Shells with Rising Effects". It was absolutely awesome!

Anyway, on with the Show!

So the Show takes place in Quartermaster Harbor; here's kind of a scene-setter as the sun sets with the Middling's show going off down Quartermaster Drive to my west.

I like to sit right on the rocks at the water's edge; ya got nothing but open water between you and the barge; it's maybe a quarter-mile away!

The barge is invisible in the gathering darkness just at the left edge of the picture! Portage and the Portage Store are back off behind me.

[Fourth of July-Vashon Style!]
[Fourth of July-Vashon Style!]

So here we go!

Here you can kinda get a little sense of scale: there's the water, and the barge, and the first fireworks!

These are kinda low-to-medium altitude shells! The Really Really Big Ones that came later were much higher than these!

It said in the Beachcomber that the Silver Camuro 24 inch shell went off at about 1,800 feet, so these are up maybe -- what? -- 600 feet off the water!

More kinda little, low ones!

Everyone ought to be able to see at least one Fourth of July fireworks show like this! I mean, it's right there in front of you!

There's nothing but water between you and the shells!

[Fourth of July-Vashon Style!]
[Fourth of July-Vashon Style!]

One thing really really cool about seeing the show at Quartermaster Harbor is the whole setting:

It's kinda a bowl, since the Harbor is surrounded by land and a lot of houses, and you get these fantastic echoes!

What happens is the mortar on the barge goes off WHUMP! and then a second or two after WHAMP! you get this cool echo off the houses back behind you at Portage which is even louder and sharper than the mortar because the houses are closer!

Here's a really neat one!

The barge is so close that you feel this awesome concussion in your chest when a big one goes off!

WHUMP! and your chest compresses and you just know a really really big one's been shot off and then WHAMP! the echo rolls off the houses at Portage and then BANG! the thing goes off overhead!

It's just too cool!

[Fourth of July-Vashon Style!]
[Fourth of July-Vashon Style!]

This one's got some good elevation!

There were quite a few shells that did these cool rings (down low)!

They would go off and send out a very symmetrical ring, multicolored, that would remain suspended, motionless, and then fade out!

As they faded another shell would rise between them, much higher, and explode!

The series of reports as the mortars go off and the echoes return and the shells explode is really something!

There were three shells here in close succession!

So it was WHUMP! WHUMP! WHUMP! and the echoes WHAMP! WHAMP! WHAMP! and the shells BANG! BANG! BANG!

Apparently some people don't really like the intensity, being this close!

[Fourth of July-Vashon Style!]
[Fourth of July-Vashon Style!]

Here's a cool art shot of one of the ring deals!            

More art!

Here you can also see another neat deal: the smoke from the shells hangs in the air and the next shells light up the smoke in the coolest ways!

Sometimes the shells go off behind the smoke and sometimes in front of the smoke!

It makes it very 3-dimensional!

[Fourth of July-Vashon Style!]
[Fourth of July-Vashon Style!]

Some major hang-time for these shells!

They were really up there!

(That little flash down at the very bottom is a mortar on the barge firing off the next shell!)

A close-up of one of the major air-bursts!

These spherical shells just knock me out!

Another really cool deal is that when the Show gets really rolling hundreds and hundreds of people you can't even see out across the water in the dark start screaming and whistling and yelling!

You get the sense that all these people you can't see are doing a standing ovation!

[Fourth of July-Vashon Style!]
[Fourth of July-Vashon Style!]

At about this point I stopped taking pictures and just watched!

Hundreds and hundreds of people were yelling and whistling out across the water and it was just too cool!

The finale seemed to last one whole minute! It was this climbing succession of complex shells that went off in rapid order, climaxing with the 24 inch "The Silver Camuro Shell of Shells with Rising Effects" bursting at 1,800 feet overhead with a canopy 1,000 feet wide!

People yelled and screamed and whistled and all the boats anchored out in Quartermaster Harbor blew their horns for another minute, and then grew silent, and that was it!

It was totally awesome!

I can't wait 'till next year!

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1999, 2000, 2001, 2002

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Last modified: Sat Jun 10 14:57:54 2006


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