The change has been tough for me. That event, at that location, holds a lot of significance for me. As a kid from small-town Wisconsin, one of my first memories of Madison was when my mom's then-boyfriend (my future stepdad) brought us to watch the fireworks. We got stuck on Sherman Avenue for a long time after the show.
During college, I remember walking with a very heavy cooler from Ingersoll Street all the way to Warner, only to have the fireworks called off because of rain. Over the last few years, the Rhythm & Booms party at my friends' house has become a defacto reunion as we all get busier with jobs and families.
Outside of the personal memories, Rhythm & Booms is one of the only big events in the region where different groups mingle and interact -- people from urban and rural backgrounds, different income groups and varying ethnicities come together to share the experience. That's rare, not just in Dane County but in American life. There is something special to Rhythm & Booms; after all, how many times a year does a Lee Greenwood song get played non-ironically within Madison city limits?
Madison can exist in a bit of a bubble -- we don't know exactly how to deal with the rural communities around us and they don't know exactly how to deal with us. The tension over a Christian music stage at this year's Brat Fest shows us how easy it is to paint our neighbors as the "Other."
But my knee-jerk dismissal of a religious festival in my atheist utopia was from my perspective as a Madison liberal. Meanwhile, how many people from the region have no use for downtown Madison outside of Badgers games or a yearly trip to the Overture Center?
When I first heard Rhythm & Booms was moving downtown, I became worried it was an attempt to reposition it as a Madison event rather than the regional attraction it already was. But, as the planning has continued, I see the Lake Monona setting as a chance to be more inclusive than ever.
As one person pointed out on The Daily Page Forum: "Have you ever driven behind Alliant Energy Center? It must have literally 40 acres of parking space."
While I don't normally think of downtown Madison as a place where it is easy to park, finding a spot for the new location may actually be easier than it was in the Warner Park neighborhood, which just wasn't built to handle the number of vehicles this big of a fireworks display attracts.
The new Rhythm & Booms gives us Madisonians a chance to be welcoming. That stretch from Olin Park through Monona Terrace is a regional treasure; it is not just something for students, Epic employees and hippies to enjoy. This is our chance to let everyone in and provide another kid from small-town Wisconsin a chance to see the best Madison has to offer.