PHARR — No matter how many virtual parades, Zoom discussions and Facebook live videos you throw at people, there’s no replacement for a good ole fashioned in-person event.
At least that’s what the throng of cars indicated at the city of Pharr’s Veterans Day fireworks show Wednesday evening.
The city closed down Nolana Avenue a little east of the expressway for the show, prompting people who hadn’t found a primo parking spot to jam into convenience stores and strip malls at the edge of the barricades, nervously maneuvering their cars into leftover nooks and crannies of the lots.
Roxanne Ramirez of McAllen had gotten to the show with her family in time to set up lawn chairs with a clear view of the display.
Ramirez, whose step-father served as a U.S. Marine sergeant for 15 years and participated and served in the Gulf War for Operation Desert Storm, says commemorating Veterans Day is a tradition in her family and the show let them keep that tradition going this year.
“This was a great idea for the city of Pharr,” she said. “We all figured it was going to be kind of a downed holiday, but they got people to come out and celebrate.”
The show started promptly at 9 p.m. and Ramirez whipped out her phone to record the fireworks like most everyone else in the lot.
Somebody played the “Marine Corps Hymn” on their car radio and a few dogs found themselves markedly less excited to be in attendance when the booming started.
The show was a welcome distraction for a few people who hadn’t expected going to a Veterans Day ceremony that evening. A few bakers watched from their doorstep when the show started, some construction workers down the road stopped digging trenches and leaned up against the hood of their truck, a couple cleaning out their car sat on the hood holding hands.
One not especially friendly Stripes store clerk stood watching in his packed parking lot, observing the show and turning customers away because his computer system was down.
The booms and bangs echoed off the strip center Ramirez and her family had set up in front of and made the metal siding on a Dollar Store down the lane give off a high-pitched retort, eerily similar to the noise bullets make when they whistle by.
The noise was such that folks in McAllen took to social media and wondered about the source of the booming sounds, with some guessing correctly that they were fireworks igniting the evening sky in honor of the brave.
The show ended 15 minutes after it started and the cars along Nolana let off a scattered applause of honking horns.
One leftover round went up a minute or two later, a truck blared a knock-off Dukes of Hazzard air horn and the show was over.
The parking lots cleared out a few minutes later, the construction crew went back to moving dirt, the bakers mopped and closed up for the day, and the couple went back to cleaning out their car.
Ramirez, the Marine’s step-daughter, says the short display would have meant a lot to her father — he died in May.
“Every year he was excited for this day to come, and Memorial Day,” she said. “This year he’s not here.”
Ramirez was emotional talking about her step-dad Wednesday.
She said despite the pandemic and the difficulty of holding celebrations like Wednesday’s, it meant a lot that people were making the effort to remember veterans.
The effort to remember her step-dad.
“Not every day they get recognized, and today is their special day.”