We spend our fifth consecutive July 4th in Williams.
Williams, AZ is a great little town. I mean, I really can’t say enough good things about it. But I’ll save some of those good things for another entry. This entry deals with our fifth July 4th in the town.
We started going to Williams for July 4th celebrations not long after we bought our place at Howard Mesa. Mike likes fireworks and Williams has ’em. It’s also 20° cooler than Wickenburg in July, which really counts when Wickenburg is 105°F. And let’s face it: Wickenburg probably has the worst July 4th fireworks in the entire country.
Williams has a July 4th Parade. But unlike most parades, the parade at Williams is held in the evening. In fact, it was still going on when Mike, Matt, Liz, and I drove into town at 6:15 PM for dinner at the Italian restaurant. Why in the evening? Well, Williams lives and breathes for the Grand Canyon, 60 miles to the north. Its tourist activities are in the morning, before folks leave their hotels for the GC or other destinations, or in the evening, when folks return from their day at the GC or arrive from other locations. It’s kind of a stopping point for lots of GC tourists. Williams is also home of the Grand Canyon Railroad, which runs a real steam engine to the GC and back every day. There are lots of hotels and restaurants and gift shops. And unlike other towns, the downtown area of Williams is not a showcase of empty storefronts and “not a retail outlet” offices. There’s plenty to see and do and buy, just strolling through town.
The parade was good for us — at least, that’s what we thought. Everyone would be watching the parade, so we could easily get a table in the restaurant. It appeared at first that we were right; there were plenty of tables. But when those tables never filled, we were a bit baffled. I mean, the food was good — I’d certainly go there again. The price was okay — not cheap but not outrageous. (After all, it is a tourist town.) But then Mike figured it out. The restaurant was on the west end of town, a bit beyond walking distance of the nightly shootout and other activities. Tourists like things in their faces. This wasn’t. Their loss.
Our waitress was Asian. That was really weird for me. After all, we were in an Italian restaurant. She spoke perfect English, with a very heavy Asian — Korean? Chinese? — accent. She was sharp as a tack and joked around with us. It was so refreshing to have a waitress who was fun.
I really need to get out more.
Afterward, we walked back to the car, which was conveniently parked in an area where we could watch the fireworks. We took folding chairs out and set them up in a grassy area across the street where other people were already set up. It was about 8:20 and the sun had gone down about 40 minutes before. The sky in the northwest, which we faced, was dark blue fading to redish violet at the horizon. Venus and whatever star that is that’s hanging around with it these days dipped toward the hills as we chatted, finally disappearing. Then it was 9:20 and the fireworks began.
At Williams, they shoot off fireworks in an empty field beside a manmade lake, just north of I-40. It’s a great spot because there’s little chance of the fireworks starting a fire with all that water so close by. Most of the observation areas are on the south side of I-40, so you look past the highway to see the fireworks. Not a big deal, because the highway is on the ground and the fireworks are in the air. Our observation point was farther south, on the south side of the railroad tracks. We had a perfect, unobstructed view, but we were a bit far away for my taste. I like to hear the explosions when the fireworks burst open — not 3 seconds later. I like to feel those explosions in my gut. I like my ears to ring when it’s all over.
Williams must have a considerable budget for fireworks because they sure shoot off a lot of them. And they don’t do them one at a time, like other small towns do. They light off a bunch at once, so there’s a lot to see. This year, the pauses between segments seemed a bit longer than usual. That could have something to do with one of the fireworks exploding on or near the ground. (There was a really long pause after that one.) But the whole show lasted about 30 minutes and the finale was five minutes of nonstop explosions of color that began right after the train went by. (I wonder if they knew the train was coming and waited until it was past?)
During the show, the wind shifted and began blowing from the north. The temperature dropped down to about 70°F; which left us thin-blooded low desert dwellers shivering in our seats. But I’ll take a cool breeze over a sweaty summer night any day.
We drove back to Howard Mesa, watching the cars and trucks in front of us on route 64 peel away to other communities along the way. The road to our place was dark and the sky was full of stars. It was a nice end to a great evening out with friends.