You’re listening to Parks and Landmarks: an exploration of the underrated, outdoors. I’m Sean Bull.
We’re just a few days away from the holiday weekend. If you’re anything like me, that means you’re searching for a fireworks show to attend, maybe a couple if they’re on different nights. Over the next few minutes, I’d like to go over every option in Dane County, to save you the trouble of researching them. This list is meant to be exhaustive for the 2022 July 4th weekend, but if I missed a fireworks show, email me, or let me know in the comments. I should at least be able to add it for the online version of this script.
Let’s go in more or less chronological order. If we limit our range to Dane County, there is only one fireworks show on Saturday, July second, and it’s one of the more unique running this year. Festival Foods Lights the Isthmus is back at Breese Stevens field for a second year. Unlike most things on this list, this is a ticketed event. Anyone over the age of twelve pays a ten dollar admission, or fifty dollars, for the “rooftop” package. The deluxe ticket includes access to an exclusive area above the plebes, and unlimited food and soft drinks. Either way, guests are treated to five live bands, followed by fireworks.
If last year is any indication, the fireworks at “Lights the Isthmus” will be pretty, but restrained, unlikely to rattle the windows of any neighboring apartments. If you’re looking for more traditional fireworks on the 2nd, I actually do have another option, but it’s kind of cheating. Sauk Prairie is having a festival, and if you really want to stick to my Dane County-only rule, you could watch the show from our side of the Wisconsin River.
If you happen to have a canoe or kayak, so much the better; you have a unique viewing opportunity on your hands! The moon won’t be too far along in its cycle, so the fireworks should be comparatively pretty bright, no matter what. If you paddle out to the middle of the river, you should be able to see the colors reflect and diffuse in the water. This adds an extra dimension to the show, one that’s worth putting in the extra effort of bringing a boat.
There are two options for fireworks on Sunday, July third. Sun Prarie’s Angell Park Speedway will have a show after their regularly scheduled races. Perhaps overshadowing this, the Mallards game will be followed by live music, and the second of Festival Food’s sponsored fireworks shows. By all accounts, this is supposed to be the big one. There’s no direct precedent, but an optimist might hope the pyrotechnics can live up to the “Rhythm and Booms” and “Shake the Lake” of the past. We’ll see, but if you leave the Duck Pond unsatisfied, there’s always Independance Day to squeeze in one more show.
By my count, Monday, July fourth, gives you eight sanctioned fireworks displays to choose from. Where you go to watch depends largely on what you’d like to do before the show. DeForest, Edgerton, Monona, and Stoughton all have multiple day festivals preceding their fireworks, each with its own flair. The Stoughton Fair has a rural bend, with 4-H Displays and a tractor pull. Monona has a classic Independence Day parade. And the citizens of Edgerton extend their festivities, many shooting off their own fireworks after the city’s display is done.
Other villages only celebrate on the fourth, but they manage to pack a lot into one day. Waunakee’s “Wauna-boom” has something of a military theme running throughout, from laser tag, to blackhawk helicopter tours, to an F-16 flyover before the fireworks. Shorewood Hills has a few unique points on their itinerary: not only do they INSIST that you don’t bring candy to the parade, they’ve organized something called the Adult Waterfight Tournament, which is delightfully vague. There are no rules listed on either the website or the tournament registration form, but it seems to be a real tournament, with bye rounds, a trophy… kids aren’t even supposed to participate! There’s a separate tournament just for them. I have to learn more, and it seems the only way is to go, and experience the Waterfight myself.
No event Mazomanie puts on could top whatever is going on in Shorewood Hills, but their fireworks are pretty good, regardless. Their show is elevated, literally, by the choice to shoot off Mazo bluff. The bluff is visible from anywhere in town, and the land to the east is pretty flat. If you want to keep your distance from the village, you can park at Wisconsin Heights High School, a mile away, and still have a perfectly unobstructed view.
To round out this list, let’s bring things back to Lake Mendota. Maple Bluff may be a small city, but I believe it’s the only one this year launching fireworks directly from the water. If you have access to a boat, you could get as close to the launching barge as any spectator on the beach. Just like with Sauk Prairie, being on the water adds something really special.
That’s a dozen different fireworks shows over one weekend. If I missed your favorite you’d like to suggest another topic for Parks and Landmarks to cover, please send it my way, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell me about your favorite underrated spot outdoors, or whatever you feel is related. This segment’s title is intentionally broad, so just go for it. I’d love to hear from you guys.