The most impressive thing about the Fourth of July celebration in Miami this year may have been that it took place at all. Of course, the same could probably be said every year in this part of the country (meaning South Florida).
The reason is the highly unpredictable and often highly uncooperative weather that characterizes the summer months throughout much of this state.
We began our two week visit on Florida’s west/Gulf coast at a lovely resort (a Marriott property) on Marco Island, which is about an hour’s drive south of Fort Collins and maybe a 90-minute drive north (and west) of Miami.
The weather pattern there was much what we experienced directly east in a community near Fort Lauderdale (which is about 30 miles north of Miami, on the east/Atlantic coast).
Basically, the daily forecast has this pattern of consistency: some sun in the AM followed by intermittent periods of rain and thunderstorms throughout the PM. In other words, the “Sunshine State,” from around mid-April until November, isn’t.
And when it isn’t raining or the skies aren’t crackling with lightning bolts and claps of thunder, it’s humid, as in instant sweat (maybe five times worse than those rare muggy days that can occasionally hit Sacramento), even though the temperatures rarely reach 90 degrees. Within days of our visit, we were wondering what the attraction was for retirees (the state matching Arizona as a retirement magnet). “No state income tax,” someone mentioned.
On the Fourth, we began our day with a round of golf in Coral Springs (about 10 miles west of Fort Lauderdale). As has been typical of our stay, the morning began with bright sunshine, only to turn cloudy by noon with rain developing in the early afternoon. That rain, heavy at times and accompanied by occasional bolts of lightning, lasted until the early evening hours.
By then, we had completed a driving tour of Fort Lauderdale (which includes an elaborate system of canals on which are housed some extremely impressive yachts) and had arrived in South Beach (the southern tip of Miami).
There, finally at around 7:30 PM, the rain stopped just in time for the planned free beach concert by the Greater Miami Youth Symphony. The symphony is directed and conducted by Huifang Chen and consists of young musicians who must audition for spots. The range of ages appeared to include mostly high school students, although anyone aged 5 to 18 can audition for selection.
The concert, which included arias sung by a member of the local opera organization, was sponsored by the Miami public radio station and was emceed by one of the station’s announcers. It featured the usual Fourth of July musical selections, including John Philip Souza’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” and Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” (which, almost incongruously, has become more associated with the Fourth than it has with its inspiration, Russia’s victorious battle with Napolean).
The symphony’s performance was about what might be expected of a youth orchestra. The weaknesses in various sections of the orchestra were only evident on those occasions when scores focused on them (as in the stirring string development in the climax of the “1812” and the woodwinds solos in the “Stars and Stripes”).
But on the Fourth of July, a musical concert that precedes a big fireworks show (and the South Beach display was as impressive as any we’ve seen), is always an appetizer to the main course, and whatever flaws are contained in it are easily overlooked in light of what everyone knows will follow. And on this night, when several hours earlier the concert and the fireworks were very much in doubt, no one in the large audience on the beach had any reason to complain.