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Sarasota Wednesday, Jun. 30, 2021 5 months ago

Spirit of America: An Idiot's Guide to the Fourth

There's a lot of ways to celebrate the loudest holiday in more than a year. Here's one tip: don't be stupid.
by: Harry Sayer Staff Writer

We're back! Feels like it, anyway — but don’t get upset if you don’t remember everything from the Before Time. With the Fourth of July coming up, the biggest and rowdiest holiday many of us have had in a while, it’s possible that we have all forgotten a few of the important rules and tips. We decided to drum up a helpful guide to make sure your Fourth of July is a roaring (yes, we said roaring) success with everyone leaving with their hands, dignity and fingers intact.


1.  Consider your drinking

Any kind of July 4 safety or etiquette starts with figuring out what you're drinking and how much. It’s better to think of a way to pace yourself and have some water, lest you drink too much early and tap out before the first fuse is ignited. You want to make a grand return to your family and friends this holiday, not end up puking into an empty box of Coors Light behind your nephew’s car.

Keep yourself hydrated and healthy and you'll be able to take White Girl Instagram photos just like me!

2. Organize (and count) your fireworks

The victory is in the preparation, so don’t wait to get fireworks the day of, like those parents who take forever to find presents on Christmas Eve and disappoint their kids. Get your fireworks early, and count them to know exactly how many you’ll be using. Also watch out for younger family members trying to sneak fireworks off for themselves. I’m not saying I was the kid who stole fireworks from my parents to toss around the neighborhood, but I am missing a quarter of a thumb. And count the beers in your fridge while you’re at it.

It's a time for good food and camaraderie — don't be the guy that burns the food.

3. Prepare for extended family

Hear that rumbling, steady scream in the distance drawing ever-closer? That’s your extended family coming back to spend a day with you. The awkward in-laws. The overly excited aunts and uncles with their incessant babbling. That niece with a lot of piercings. Wait, Bryson is coming? Who invited Bryson? Anyway, they’re coming, and they’re ready to catch up with you. So ignore that deep dread in your stomach, and show your family you care. And make sure you’ve followed rule No. 1.

4.  Keep a safe distance

Fireworks can absolutely wreck your deal (Read our sidebar from an SMH ER doctor — her hospital becomes a “Saw” film every July 4), so it’s important not to be too close when they go boom. Someone, somewhere, is going to slip and fall while running away from a mortar. It’s going to explode and light their pants on fire. It will become a cruel running joke in their family for the rest of their lives. They will get divorced and lose their home from this. An entire life, hollowed out and left a miserable shell because they couldn’t find escape from Big Ed’s Bunker Busting Firework Bomb going off in their yard. So make sure that’s not you! Get ready to run.

5  Talk about politics

Just do it. Who cares? You have the fireworks and will win the battle when a war
of words escalates into an arms race.

Look how cute this kitten is. Do you really want to destroy her brain with exploding fireworks? I hope you don't, you monster.

6. Think about your pets

Remember those pets that you all adopted at the start of the pandemic when you realized just how quiet your lives really were? Well, they’re still around, and they get really wigged out by fireworks. Make sure to walk them, find them a remote space in the house and even play white noise for them before the fireworks start. It’s a party for you; it’s the invasion of Anzio for them.

7.  Enjoy the night

We’ve been through a lot, yeah? Be easy on yourself, and enjoy the holiday. It’s a time for family, connection and remembering those who came before us. And you don’t have to talk to Bryson if you don’t want to. 

Keep yourself hydrated and healthy and you'll be able to take White Girl Instagram photos just like me!

Finally, the voice of reason

Don’t just take our word for it. Dr. Sarah Temple, an emergency medicine physician at Sarasota Memorial Hospital and associate program director of the FSU/SMH ER residency program, has been treating people with severe injuries at the hospital for nearly a decade and has thoughts on the matter. While July 4 bringing firework damage could seem like an urban legend, Temple assured us that it’s very much real.

“We definitely see (fireworks injuries) on the actual day but even just leading up because people start setting off fireworks early,” Temple said. 

 She’s seen people come in with burnt flesh and missing pieces of their fingers from mortars blowing up in their hands and faces. There's not really a fix either— if a firework has blown off part of your hand or a finger, there’s no surgery that’s going to reattach it. 

“The only time we realistically can consider re-implanting digits is when it's a nice, clean cut,” Temple said. “But if it’s exploded off, it is simply just a matter of minimizing the amount of damage.”

Better to prepare yourself than end up burning on the operating table. It’s not the traditional approach but Temple recommends wearing safety goggles while lighting fireworks. It might not look cool but it’s better than having hot firework particles shooting into your eye at high velocity. 

It’s also a matter of knowing about your situation and surroundings and not making any silly mistakes. Temple has seen people come in with serious firework damage to their lower area and private parts — they manage to slip a firework into their pocket and forget about it until a random firework fleck ignited it.

Having a safety plan is critical and Temple stresses people should bring a large bucket of water with them to douse out any flames. She says people make the mistake of putting ice or even lard on burns — the effective thing to do is use room temperature water and to head to the emergency room if the burn is blistering. 

“If it just looks like a bad sunburn that's fine but if it's got significant blisters or even worse if it looks like cooked chicken then that's third-degree burns,” Temple said. 

There’s a few more obvious picks — don’t pick up dud fireworks, don’t aim them at each other, don’t give young children sparklers — but a lot of this ultimately comes back to alcohol. 

“You really just shouldn’t drink alcohol and shoot fireworks,” Temple said. 


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Harry Sayer is the Black Tie Reporter for the Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and previously worked the Black Tie beat for the Observer newspaper in Winter Park and Maitland. You can catch him at one of Sarasota's fundraisers and shindigs. 

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