Center Harbor, NH Fireworks

There are a few things I know in life, and one of them is that you will never, ever find a better place to watch 4th of July fireworks then Lake Winnipesaukee.  You might call me biased in this since this has been a tradition in my life since I was a little girl, but maybe I can convince you!

The story begins on the dock at sunset.  Our destination tonight is the little town of Center Harbor which is a 10 minute boat ride away because the rule of the lake is the second conditions get good you do everything via motorboat, and this being New England we’re pretty liberal in the definition of “good.”  Typically it’s still plenty cold in early July so that having the big summer holiday so early on seems like a terrible mistake by the Founding Fathers who were clearly thinking of such things (you couldn’t bear the yoke of tyranny until, say, mid-August?), and one can’t rule out bad weather either.  In fact, in what was arguably the worst firework year ever they started an hour early without warning so we only saw the last few!

Luckily there was a heat wave this year so weather was no problem, and probably the prettiest 4th of July sunset I’ve ever seen too.  These first two pictures are basically looking straight ahead off the dock and then turning 90 degrees to the right.

Anyway, we’re off!  And very, very quickly while heading towards Center Harbor it appears that we’ve got company as so many other people know the magic of fireworks by boat, making an impromptu regatta on the water amidst the rolling waves.  So beautiful and magical, filled with people in good spirits waving to each other and singing America the Beautiful (ok I don’t know who else did, but my rendition got a few fist pumps) and enjoying the holiday.

Finally we pass the buoys (rocks are a definite problem around here) to enter the bay and set up anchor a fair distance away from the fireworks barge.  There are hundreds and hundreds of boats bobbing in the water all around us as far as the eye can see- keep in mind that if you saw ten boats in this same shot on a normal day it’d be considered quite busy!  A real party on the water if there ever was one.

My brother Patrick, my dad and me waiting for the sunset to finish and the fireworks to begin.  We were kind of late coming to grab a good spot in time this year as we only arrived 45 minutes early- usually we stake out a half hour earlier than that!  But hey nothing like hanging out with your family to pass the time and the residents of the surrounding cottages keep everyone’s interest piqued by conducting their own mini fireworks shows going on the shoreline.  Very pretty, and no stray ones like when we did ours! *wink*


Finally at around 915pm the fireworks begins!  No more pictures unfortunately as the bobbing of the boats isn’t very good for fireworks pictures, but the funny thing is for all I’ve hyped this fireworks show I think most people who have seen them in big cities would be at all impressed by it.  You see Center Harbor is tiny- less than 1,000 people live here year-round though those numbers swell a few times in summer- so budget dictates a bit more modest affair than a bigger place.  I really don’t mind it though because it ends up fostering the philosophy that the Dutch had when they first brought tulips over from China- planting a field full was too expensive so you would only do one at a time to admire its individual beauty.  And trust me this works really well for fireworks- shooting off three at a time is considered to be a big deal so instead we have time to admire the ones we have until they disappear, hearing the rolling booms echoing from the surrounding hillsides and honking boat horns so the organizers know the favorites. I always wonder if they make a note of which ones get the most noise.

After 20 minutes of fireworks (it’s usually 30 minutes but it was short this year- town budget must be hurting due to the recession) the show is done and it’s time to head home- by this point it’s dark so the boats heading out go slowly so as to give ample caution to the not-really-visible buoys.  We end up spending over a half hour to weave home in the darkness while keeping an eye on boats, rocks, and the mini fireworks shows that have started up again at the shoreline cottages.

And that is what I look forward to every 4th of July no matter where I am in the world.  The astute will notice that this story isn’t even about the fireworks so much really because they themselves aren’t the most spectacular you’ll ever see or anything but rather part of the whole adventure.  After all, all good travelers know that the journey is as important as the destination, and who can object to such a fun journey and family to share it with?

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