July 05, 2004

Down with the Queen

Happy (Observed) Fourth of July, everybody! Are we full of hamburgers and hot dogs and ice cream? How were the fireworks?

Each year, my family packs up the picnic baskets and portable grills to celebrate the Fourth in Jamestown. Last year was especially nice, as we had great weather, good food and plenty of time to run around or relax. Em and I headed into town as it got dark to get ice cream and watch the Newport fireworks from across the East Passage (with the beautiful Newport Bridge in view). It was great, and we were so looking forward to the same experience this year.

Then, last week, it was announced that the world's largest cruise ship, the Queen Mary II, was turned away from New York Harbor and had decided to come to Newport to watch the fireworks. And to sweeten the pot for everyone, the cruise ship operators doubled the Newport fireworks budget to $20,000. We thought this would be awesome. So did the rest of the state, who joined us in cramming roughly one billion cars onto tiny Canonicut Island.

The crowd at the town square wasn't bad at all, save for a few parents who felt the need to stand with their children on their shoulders, blocking the view of six or seven rows of skywatchers behind them. Once the show was over, the nightmare began. Even walking back to our parking spot about a half mile (in the wrong direction) from town, we knew it would be awful, as no one was moving at all.

Thinking I could circumvent some of the traffic, I headed away from the highway to the "back way" out of town. Not surprisingly, I was not the only one to have this idea. We sat in traffic for two hours and forty-five minutes.

TWO HOURS. AND FORTY-FIVE MINUTES. To travel 1.2 miles. Here's a handy graphic (red line, 2:45, green line, 0:15).

It was by far the worst traffic I have ever been in. Thanks, Queen Mary II. The kicker, though, was that the alleged $20 grand in pyrotechnics was amazingly mediocre! The "grand finale" was a heck of lot more finale than grand. Under the bridge we could see up the coast where North Kingstown was putting on their own show, and their show lasted longer! Did I mention two hours and 45 minutes in traffic? And if I may gripe just a little bit longer, the line for ice cream stretched as far as the eye could see, and we overheard a conversation with someone who was still in line for a treat after an hour.

In conclusion, no ice cream, unimpressive fireworks seen from behind a seven year old's hoisted body, and almost three hours of traffic (in which my car told me fuel efficiency topped out around 1.4 mpg) made for a disappointing night. Still, the day was beautiful, and I got to spend it with friends and family, so not all was bad. I hope you guys had an equally good day and a much better night!

Posted by Bil at July 5, 2004 03:38 PM | TrackBack

I watched the fireworks in Wakefield, at the high school. I left an hour after the firewords ended, and still got stuck in traffic for an hour head north on Route 1. Left Wakefield at 10:30, arrived home in Rehoboth at 12:15. Me and two kids and a dog. Got up at 6 this morning to catch the parade in Bristol. Did you see the deluge of rain at the end? I was riding my bike from Warren to Bristol. But I pulled it off again! I wouldn't miss the parade for anything!

Posted by: KissyO at July 5, 2004 11:36 PM : Link this comment

I live in Newport, and yes, the traffic was bad. I had never seen so many cars in Newport before in my life. But, all things considered, people are complaining about the fireworks far too much. Did the extra $20,000 make a huge visible difference in the fireworks? A little, but not really. As for the traffic, the city got word from Cunard a few days beforehand, and no one expected THAT many people to come to town. Even if a traffic/shuttle plan was deemed to be necessary, there wasn't even enough time to put it together! My family spent the evening on our boat, doing circles around the QM2, and we watched traffic on the Newport Bridge come to a complete standstill for hours. So we knew that the traffic would be bad when we pulled our boat out of the water at Fort Adams. So we waited and pulled our boat out later, leaving the Fort at 11:15. Now, I live in Newport, and we didn't get home for over an hour. But you know what? We didn't stress out. We didn't get mad. We knew: that's what happens when the world's largest ship doubles the fireworks budget and millions of people hear about it. Eventually, we got home.

And, to put to rest the idea that Newport cannot handle heavy traffic, the Tall Ships festival was held later that summer. An entire parking/shuttle system had been put in place over a month beforehand so that 150,000 people saw the ships on Goat Island with minimal hassles.

With big events like that, you EXPECT long lines and heavy traffic. Just wait it out, and smile.

Posted by: a Newport resident at August 20, 2004 01:18 AM : Link this comment

Or take the ferry. :)

Posted by: Cotuit at August 20, 2004 12:14 PM : Link this comment
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