In today’s economic climate and financial watchdog state, it’s amazing that cities still have money at the ready to spend on the simple things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for government financial watchdogism. As a proud member of the third estate, that’s what we (those of us who take our jobs seriously, anyway) in the business are tagged with doing — watching out for the common man and woman to make sure those hard-earned tax dollars are doled out responsibly.

Ever wonder why we attend City Council meetings, sit in at school board sessions and generally try to keep an eye and ear to the ground of City Hall?

With tight purse strings all around, and city managers from Howe to Melissa having to account for their spending each and every fiscal year, it’s a pleasant surprise then that we still have public fireworks shows. Think about it: that’s thousands of dollars that city leaders agree to spend to simply provide for the enjoyment of the populace. There are no political leanings, no sideways politics for those who look for such things; there is simply a bit of patriotism provided for the taxpayer by the city.

This year was typical of what one could expect in the area. Melissa got the Fourth of July party started with its Celebration of Freedom event on Saturday, June 29. The Celebration took place at Zadow Park and featured booths chocked with food and activities which put a smile on the residents’ faces. The fireworks show kicked off at dusk and it was well worth the wait.

Anna lit up the night sky from the Anna High School football stadium on the Fourth. This year’s organizers kept it traditional — free parking, free fireworks and a good time for all, the three ingredients to a successful show.

I took in Van Alstyne’s Fourth of July party this year after watching Anna’s last year and Melissa’s the previous Saturday. Event organizers deserve some serious kudos for a job well done. Held at the Van Alstyne High School, the event featured the always-adorable kids’ bike parade in which children with training wheels on their bikes to those with visions of the X Games in their mind decorate their bicycles with anything and everything Americana. Red, white and blue bunting could be found in abundance, while some kids got really creative with American flag-colored haircuts (I especially dug the red Mohawk one youngster sported.)

There were informational booths (ever wonder what Great Days of Van Alstyne is all about?), a food stand and bounce houses, air slides and a puppet show for the kids. Oh, and did I mention the martial arts demonstration in the middle of it all? Van Alstyne Martial Arts was there, punching, kicking and breaking boards. I’m sure a few kids left begging mom and dad to sign them up for lessons pronto.

It was the fireworks show that really topped it off, however. Originally set for 9 p.m. but delayed a half-hour to let wind die down, the 30-minute plus show was put on by a professional fireworks company and was the best thing this side of Addison’s Kaboomtown. It wasn’t just the length of the show that made it so great, the actual fireworks were seriously impressive. For a town of less than 5,000 residents to put on this kind of exhibition spoke wonders of event planners and the commitment it took from all involved to pull it off.

I’ll say it up front: I’m not a crowd person. I don’t go to concerts, and I tend to shy away from large masses of people, especially where parking is concerned. Parking at these things can go one of two ways generally: tolerable or a downright nightmare. However, Van Alstyne’s event had fantastic ingress and egress. It took us literally just minutes to work our way into and away from the high school. Add to that the fact that, as my lovely wife noted, it seemed like every police officer in Van Alstyne was out working traffic and cars rolled along smoothly and efficiently, ferrying their passengers on to the rest of their night, just the way it should be.