Rural Claremore family’s July 4th traditions include fireworks, food
Tom Fink Staff Reporter
In the 1980s, Chuck Scott was still a relatively new face to Rogers County.
Even so, it didn’t take him long to establish what would soon become a Fourth of July family tradition.
“We’d moved (to Oklahoma) from Illinois in 1983, where we couldn’t shoot off fireworks,” Scott recalled. “The boys, who were 10 and 8 at the time, wanted to shoot off our own, and this was before you could get a permit to shoot fireworks off in town.
“By 1985, we moved out to the country, where shooting off your own (fireworks) was allowed, so we decided to buy our first batch of fireworks to set off ourselves — those, we bought from my uncle, I.B. Dane, or ‘Uncle B’, who was ruining a firework stand at the time,” he continued. “We picked up about $40 worth of fireworks that year, I think. Not a lot, really, but the boys loved it.”
Fireworks bought, Scott and his wife, LeAnn, boys, Doug and Chuck Jr., and of course, Uncle B, could scarcely wait until nightfall that Fourth of July in 1985, for their first taste of setting off their very own bounty of fireworks. Although that first modest fireworks show quickly came and went, it lit a fuse at the Scott household that’s been burning ever since.
“It was the first time we’d ever done anything like that as a family — it was really a big deal,” LeAnn Scott said, “and as the years passed, it became an even bigger deal.”
In the following years, the Scotts continued to purchase and set off their own fireworks, adding a few more every year. As time passed, the Scotts began to invite other family members and friends to their home for the Fourth, for dinner, and to be a part of what was now their annual celebration.
Now entering its 28th year, the family tradition is going stronger than ever, with more than 100 friends and family expected to converge on the Scotts country home, as much for the fellowship as the fireworks.
“We’ve got family coming in — that we know of — from all across the state, as well as some from Illinois, Kentucky and Texas,” Chuck Scott said. “We’ve got a few ‘maybes’ that might be able to make it from Indiana and Washington — we’re hoping they can make it.”
As with the attendance, the fireworks show grew exponentially, and what started as a brief 20 minutes of firecrackers and fountains has now grown to into a full-blown hour-and-a-half of carefully choreographed pyrotechnics.
“(Son) Doug spends the week before the get-together unwrapping everything, checking all the fuses, deciding how he wants to present the show — he puts a lot of thought and work into it,” LeAnn Scott said. “Chuck passed the torch to him, so to speak, a few years ago, and now he handles most of the lighting duties, which he takes very seriously.”
In nearly 30 years of fireworking, Scott says there’s only been one accident — a faulty rocket which, instead of heading straight upward, veered off and shot sideways, starting a quickly-extinguished small grassfire in a nearby field.
“In almost 30 years, that was the only near-miss I guess you’d call it, and even that had nothing to do with human error, it had to do with the firework itself. There’s never been a mishap that had anything to do with the people — we still have all our fingers,” he laughed. “Everything here is done with adult supervision — even the more ‘safe’ fireworks, like the sparklers and the smoke bombs. We only allow the kids to do them with an adult overseeing things. My grandson used to say he’d come over to Pawpaw’s house on the Fourth for ‘food, fireworks and f’wimmin’ (swimming).”
In nearly 30 years of gatherings, is there anything the Scotts haven’t done yet?
“I’d like it if someone brought a guitar one year and we all kind of enjoyed a sing-along together, but other than that, I don’t think there’s anything we haven’t done for the Fourth that we would have wanted to,” LeAnn Scott said. “Just seeing everyone together is as special — more special, really — than the (fireworks) show itself.”
Weather has generally been favorable for the occasion, Chuck said, and more than once, four fighter jets would fly overhead just before the show was scheduled to begin.
“I’m thinking they were on their way to something in Tulsa, but I’d just put my hands up and say, ‘It’s all part of the show, folks,’” Chuck Scott said. Serendipitous surprises aside, both Scotts agreed on their favorite part of the evening: Family.
“We say ‘family,’ but really, everyone who comes out here is practically family — our friends, my hunting buddies, people from our church and Sunday school class — if they’re not family by blood, they’re family by spirit, and seeing all of them together in one place at one time ...that’s a great thing, there’s nothing like it,” Chuck Scott said. “When we started out, it was strictly family, but now it’s maybe one-third actual family and two-thirds friends that we’ve sort of adopted into the family.
“Seeing everyone enjoying themselves and hearing the comments about how good the (fireworks) show was or how good a time they had, that’s really the most satisfying thing for me,” he said.
Sadly, “Uncle B” passed away in 2011 — a loss for the family, but one which was acknowledged in that year’s fireworks show.
“We rarely know what Doug’s going to do for the finale, but that year, we planned one in honor of Uncle B,” Chuck Scott said. “We wanted it to be special — something he would have enjoyed — so we used more noise-makers and firecrackers; those were his favorite. He didn’t mind the ‘sparkly’ fireworks, but he particularly liked things that made a lot of noise — the more noise, the better for him. He was happy that our shows would get bigger and louder every year.”
“His favorites were the firecrackers and Saturn Missiles,” LeAnn Scott added. “Some years, he’d even help us to light them. I know he’d be happy we’re continuing a tradition he helped us start.”
“It was Uncle B who got us started. It began as a small fireworks show, but it’s grown into so much more now — it’s a very extended family reunion that happens to include fireworks,” he said. “It didn’t take long for us all to get as excited about seeing everyone as we were about the fireworks. They (the fireworks) are great, but they’re just an excuse for us to get together, and see everyone — to fellowship, to make memories. Everyone should do this.”