As we get ready to celebrate another 4th of July, I started thinking back about past July 4th celebrations. Most of them are blurry remembrances of cooking out at home, then going somewhere to watch fireworks. But one in particular stands out, not because of the fireworks, which were good, but because of what happened afterwards.
It was the July 4th celebration of 1995. The Cobb Galleria had just opened up just inside I-285 on South Cobb Drive, and were boasting they were going to have the biggest and best fireworks show in Atlanta. This was before Lenox Square started doing their fireworks show. So we decided to go check it out.
Traffic was already bumper to bumper on 285 as we got close to our exit, and we decided that rather than trying to get to the Galleria inside the perimeter highway, that we would try and find a spot just outside 285 where we could still see the fireworks. We found what we thought was the perfect spot – a new office building just off the exit that had a parking deck with it. We weren’t the only ones wanting to watch the fireworks from there, and unlike most parking decks that fill from the bottom up, this one filled from the top down, and we only made it up to the third deck of the six-deck lot. We could probably have watched the fireworks from there, but with concrete above and below us, there wasn’t a lot of ventilation and it was hot, so we walked on up to the top deck.
On top it was like a party. The ones that had gotten there early enough to get a top parking spot has brought lawn chairs and coolers, and some even brought hibachis and grills and cooked out. Some even brought boom boxes and played music. And they were willing to share their on top viewing area with those of us parked below them. We were lucky enough to get a spot near the wall facing the Galleria across 285.
The fireworks were good. I wouldn’t call them great, because I’d seen better at Stone Mountain, but they weren’t bad, and they lasted a while. But they were finally over, and the folks on the top deck packed up their chairs and coolers and grills, while the rest of us walked back down to our cars.
We all knew it would be slow getting out, so there was no real rush for the exits, but we sat in our cars and waited, and waited, and waited, and nobody moved. We were starting to wonder what was going on when some people parked on the lower levels walked back up and told us. The road leading into the parking deck was two-laned, with a third reversible middle lane. Those that had gotten there late and found the parking deck full had started parking in the two outer lanes. Those that got there even later started parking in the middle lane, until every space was full. No one could move until the people that had parked down on the drive moved. And some of them had apparently decided that rather than walking up the parking deck and watching the show, they would walk across the bridge over 285 to the Galleria to watch the show and join in the festivities. So we were having to wait on people enjoying themselves at the Galleria after the show to get back before any of us could move.
So we made the best of the situation. Rather than sitting in our cars for the next few hours, we walked back up to the roof. Those stuck on the roof got their chairs and coolers and boom boxes back out, and we had our own little July 4th party going on for the next two hours. Finally, the people who had parked on the drive starting getting back to their cars, and eventually we all were able to get out of the deck and back home.
Now some may think that was a disastrous July 4th, and in some ways you may be right. But we always look at it as a wonderful memory, because not only did we get to see fireworks, but we made new friends and had a good time making the best of the situation.
I hope your 4th of July celebration is safe and fun.
Larry Stanford can be contacted at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.