It’s sad when the actions of a few unruly, inconsiderate troublemakers spoil a good time for everyone else.
But that’s what happened Wednesday when one of Albany’s long-standing traditions — and possibly the last in that line — was prematurely aborted because argumentative, immature teenagers broke out into physical altercations.
The violence broke out in the riverside park area where families and groups had gathered to watch a celebration of Independence Day. For decades, Albany has had one of the state’s premier fireworks shows on the Fourth of July, something that brings people from all across the racial, political and socioeconomic spectrums together to celebrate something special — another birthday for the longest continuing democracy in the world.
Concerned after taking a pistol from a 17-year-old, police officers canceled the final burst of pyrotechnics that, until now, always brought the show to its close. The concern that gunshots could go undetected because of the overhead explosions or that the fireworks would make some quick-trigger thug start firing a weapon caused police to take the best option available to them — shut down the show and send everyone home. Albany police should be commended for stepping in quickly, assessing the situation and making the right decision.
As a result, however, the likely finale of Albany’s signature fireworks show ended without a finale.
Longtime Albanians and Southwest Georgians have many fond memories of these celebrations, which moved downtown some years back. In earlier decades, there were actually two shows — one at Hugh Mills Memorial Stadium and the other nearby at Hilsman Park that followed a full day of entertainment, music, games and food — that included both overhead fireworks and fiery static displays on the ground built by city of Albany personnel.
It’s sad that the tradition is ending this way, though that was decided long before the first fuse was lighted Wednesday. Government spending should always be closely scrutinized, but even more so in these days when the economy is struggling. In writing its budget for the fiscal year that started Sunday, the city of Albany did not include any funds for a fireworks show on July 4, 2013, nor either of the newer fireworks shows the city had on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. While some private interest may step in to keep it going, as of now there is little likelihood of a repeat of Wednesday night next year.
Meanwhile, whatever injuries these miscreants inflicted on each other, they landed another solid black-eye on downtown. There are many who have written off the downtown area, which is working to re-create its image. The success of great quality-of-life events such as Mardi Gras and the Friday night Deck of Arts are overshadowed by the acts of a handful of hot-headed teens with no self-control.
That their childish, dangerous behavior should rear its ugly head as people tried to celebrate the birth of our nation was disgraceful. But if they have no respect for themselves, no one can expect them to have respect for their nation.