Since this was the first “Fireworks on the James” Independence Day celebration, you could figure that there would be plenty of confusion, experimentation and messing with the law to see the light show in downtown Richmond. Figuring that the Manchester Bridge would give me the best vantage point to see both the fireworks and how the […]
Since this was the first “Fireworks on the James” Independence Day celebration, you could figure that there would be plenty of confusion, experimentation and messing with the law to see the light show in downtown Richmond.
Figuring that the Manchester Bridge would give me the best vantage point to see both the fireworks and how the spectacular lights interact with the James River, I decided to make that my first choice for viewing. I brought my bike for a quick getaway just in case it failed to produce.
The fireworks were amazing, and I saw what I expected. The remnants of old concrete and granite piers, the VEPCO dam and granite boulders in the reflections of the fireworks on James were a bonus to the show. I saw some kayakers paddling among the ruins of the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad Bridge and people walking along the metal remains of the VEPCO dam that connects Brown’s Island to the south bank. Seeing those adventurers made me wonder that much more how many people snuck on to Belle Isle to watch.
There were about 500 people on the walkway in the center of the bridge, many with blankets, chairs and children — things you never see on the Manchester Bridge. By 9 p.m., there was a tremendous amount of cars trying to sneak into the best vantage points by parking onto the shoulders of the bridge, a clear violation of traffic laws.
I watched the first guy pull up and park in the best spot with his pickup truck and set his chairs up in the back. In about 10 minutes time, more than 80 cars had parked and in another 5 minutes, police officers on each side were patrolling, trying to get everyone to move along. There were several cars that never moved, and even more that came along after someone left to take the place of an obedient driver.
It was a losing battle for police, and I never saw the first ticket, though I overheard plenty of verbal abuse for the officers. The poor guy in the pickup left about half way through after being hounded by an officer. Richmond needs to plan the Manchester Bridge better next year.
I left early, hoping to scout the south bank for more fireworks revellers. The Robert E. Lee Bridge – which was blocked to traffic — seemed to have about 1,000 people watching, and I saw cars all over Manchester and Spring Hill. I rode along Riverside Drive and both the Reedy Creek and 42nd Street parking lots had plenty of cars, proving to me that the Main Area of the James River Park would be a popular spot, just as they should be for the Dogwood Dell show.