Saturday night's Rhythm & Booms fireworks display wasn’t all it was cracked up to be for some Madisonians, who opted to avoid the crowds on John Nolen Drive and watch from parks ringing Lake Monona.
The city identified eight parks and beaches that would offer views of the fireworks which, for the first time, were launched from a barge in Lake Monona. But those gathering in those areas were disappointed, according to posts on social media.
Yahara Place Park in the Marquette neighborhood was a fail, one resident reported to the neighborhood association email listserv. Trees blocked views of the fireworks.
That wasn’t the only area to disappoint, by some accounts. Local realtor Ben Anton waxed dramatic in a Facebook post, reporting, “…hundreds of people, lawn chairs and coolers in tow, flooded the streets after realizing they would be unable to see anything from anywhere between Ingersoll and Elmside from a lake shore park or position... Cars honked horns. Ladies cursed. Lake flies hung like fog, illuminated by the passing vehicles.”
BB Clarke Beach, on the other hand, reportedly offered superb viewing to the up to 1,000 people who gathered there.
One tickled Facebook poster told of showing up, “family in tow, at BB park at 9 pm, parked a block away, had no problem finding ample blanket space, and had a great view of the show.. I'm sorry to 'brag' but **** like this never works out so well for me. Great time!”
Residents on adjacent Spaight Street were on the ball, planning ahead of time to get a permit to close the street for a block party.
One commenter proclaimed it “poor planning” for the city to encourage viewers to go to Yahara Place Park when the fireworks would not be visible there. Another suggested people simply look at a map and figure out where geography would likely afford good sightlines. Pretty hard to do when there was not much information before the show on exactly where the barges from which the fireworks would be exploded would be positioned, said another.
“I think it's not unreasonable for people to have assumed that the organizers would have chosen a firing location that would not leave the fireworks invisible to large stretches of the shoreline,” he commented.
Maybe. Maybe not. Rita Kelliher, president of Madison Festivals Inc., which organized the event, has said it was difficult to secure vendors for the first-time event. (Some along John Nolen Drive complained there were not enough food options to choose from.)
And Kelliher has been candid that her organization needs people to patronize vendors to help pay for the show.
Madison Festivals spokesperson Brodie Birkel told WKOW.com that given the mixed reviews of some viewing areas around the lake, “we hope that next year they realize that John Nolen Drive is really the best viewing of these fireworks."
Ald. Marsha Rummel, who represents the Marquette neighborhood where residents raised many questions and concerns over the impact of the new location on the lake and lakeside areas, was criticized as not being adequately engaged in the planning process.
Rummel responded: “I was not disengaged at all.” She said she was in contact with police over constituent concerns over traffic and other impacts and sent out listserv and Facebook updates. But Rummel added she was not invited to some of the final planning sessions called by privately run Madison Festivals.
“I certainly will share the request to station the barge further out (in the water) to increase views for Yahara Place Park,” Rummel posted. But it is a private event whose organizers are looking to raise revenues from vending to cover costs, “so the best views will be in the event boundary,” she said.
At least next year, people will know to at least check out likely sight lines before plopping down a blanket at their neighborhood park.