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Originally published April 2, 2013 at 8:59 PM | Page modified April 2, 2013 at 8:59 PM

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Lighten up, Seattle: Don’t fire the Fourth of July fireworks

The tepid reaction to the news that Seattle’s Fourth of July fireworks show has been canceled must have Ivar Haglund rolling over in his watery grave.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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Caesar would advise to keep the masses entertained or they will turn on you. MORE
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We briefly interrupt the cancellation of summer fun to peer deeply into Seattle’s id.

Our mayor, Mike McGinn, was on KIRO radio talking policy recently, when out of the blue he began psychoanalyzing his city. He was asked whether it was good for our civic image if we become a mecca for “marijuana tourism,” now that smoking pot is legal here.

It’s all good, said Sunny McGinn.

“Coffee shops, music, software, water, nature — we’ve got a lot of good things that people want to be here for,” began the mayor.

“And you know what? We’ve got the fourth-fastest growing urban economy in the nation,” he said, picking up steam. “And we do that with chickens in the backyard. And veggies in the planting strip. And people riding bikes. And gay people can marry each other. And we’ve got paid sick leave, right?

“What the hell! What the hell?! This is not a crazy thing, right? This is just a part of who we are.”

Now, because I wrote a column recently in which every quote was fabricated, I’d like to stress that this one isn’t. Truth really can be stranger than fiction.

But I’ve also been thinking about McGinn’s depiction of us now that it’s been announced the Fourth of July fireworks are canceled. The reaction to that summer bummer news has been, to my ears, a collective Seattle shrug.

Unlike in past years, there hasn’t been much of an outcry. Not many phone calls to us here at the paper. No radio drives to save the day. Restaurateur and fireworks-lover Tom Douglas is still out there being optimistic, but you can’t tell if the city much cares.

“Summer here is glorious,” was a typical comment on our website. “Never needed Blue Angels or fireworks to make it so. Less noise, less pollution, less money spent on useless (expletive.) S’all good.”

Is this who we are now?

Ivar Haglund must be rolling over in his watery grave.

Part of the shrug may be because we’ve heard this pitiful cancellation song before. The fireworks promoter, One Reel, can’t deliver the show of late without first having some sort of fainting spell. The threat has become part of the ritual.

But in One Reel’s defense, who is small-town and gee-whiz enough to go ga-ga over fireworks anymore? Modern Seattle is, I guess, too world-class or yuppified or out planting slow food in the parking strip to go for corny Americana.

Plus our business leaders are either so world-focused (see, Gates) or libertarian (see, Bezos) that it may not occur to them to take up a cause as down home as the Fourth of July.

I bet we need the fireworks more than we know. It’s the least-elitist thing we’ve got left, where the entire city is invited, for free. You can holler at the sky or make out in the dark, or both, while bombs are blown up on behalf of you and your country. Ivar Haglund knew the lure: It’s primal. Especially when you’re young.

Which he always was. In one of his last interviews before he died in 1985, Ivar, King of the Seattle Waterfront, whose seafood company had put on fireworks shows for 20 years and would for 20 more, was asked if there was anything left for him to accomplish.

“I just want to see a few more Fourths of July,” he said.

C’mon, Seattle. We’re not so cool that we’ve completely forgotten who we are. Or where we came from.

Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday.

Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com

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