There’s nothing I want to do on New Year’s Eve except run around the Christmas-tree bonfire on Orleans Avenue. New Year’s Eve is usually a big let-down, but the bonfire is fantastic. I would probably just stay home otherwise.
According to some accounts, this is a tradition that’s been going on for close to a hundred years. But now the City of New Orleans wants to shut it down.
In the year’s I’ve attended, there’s been a huge crowd, pretty wild, with tons of fireworks. A few people are bound to have gotten hurt. And discharging fireworks is illegal in Orleans Parish.
But having said all that, some things are more important than safety and good sense. This is not just a party, it’s time-honored community celebration, a sacred ritual. I really need to run around that bonfire. It may be illegal and dangerous — but I don’t care.
Remember, running around the bonfire ensures good luck in the coming year. If they shut it down they are essentially condemning us to a year of bad luck. It’s not just tradition at stake here!
Many of my neighbors are getting pretty fired up about this. It’s too symbolic to pass quietly. Symbols matter. I expect there will be quite a turnout for the meeting Monday night. And I suspect there will be a bonfire on Orleans Avenue this New Year’s Eve.
I do care about the immediate neighbors on Orleans Avenue. If they want it shut down, well, I can’t say I blame them. I’d respect their wishes. But if they largely support the bonfire in some form, then the best approach is harm reduction. The bonfire’s gonna happen, so how can it be made as safe as possible?
- New Year’s Eve Bonfire by Jennifer Weishaupt (MCNO President)
- Save the New Year’s Bonfire in Mid-City by Michael Homan
- Discussion thread on Mid-City Yahoo Group
- Discussion thread on nola.com Mid-City forum
- Do NOT start a New Year’s Eve bonfire in the neutral ground on Orleans Avenue. Unless you want various civic agencies to hold a public meeting about the dangers of doing so. Would that make you happy? Because we can do that. by Kevin Allman for Gambit Daily. Damn, that’s a long title and a long URL.
- New: SaveTheBonfire
Update: Having talked about this with a few people, including a friend in city government, I’m convinced this is a classic example of a clash between a folk tradition and modern society. The salient questions which those in authority will ask simply have no good answers. Who is organizing the event? Who’s responsible? Who’s liable? Who do we talk to about this? Sorry, there’s no one. This is an event that’s evolved organically over time. There are no ringleaders, there is no formal organization. In the past, fire trucks have stood at the ready to douse the fire and to prevent it from spreading. Obviously some authorities knew about the event and even tacitly enabled it. But now that (for whatever reason) the issue has been dragged into the spotlight of public scrutiny, there is of course only one coherent position for authorities to take. They have to say no. They have to; it’s their only coherent position as sworn upholders of law and order. But rationality is overrated. Sometimes it’s better to be right than coherent.
Another Update: Sheldon Fox called me last night wanting an interview; I referred him to Michael Homan and Mark Folse. There’s a petition which some folks are planning to print and present at the meeting Monday. This story was on the front page of the paper, and they also ran a story about the fire in the blogosphere.