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CHRIS KATTERJOHN Commentary: A midsummer reflection on fireworks

July 10, 2006

What a great Independence Day weekend.

Like many businesses, IBJ Corp. took both Monday and Tuesday off for a midsummer break. The four-day weekend squeezed our deadlines a bit, but we happily paid the price. After a strong first half of the year, we deserved the break, and I don't think we missed much by not being here.

On Wednesday morning, it was as if all the July 4 fireworks blew the humidity out of the atmosphere. We woke up and drove to work under pleasant, sunny skies-the nicest morning in several weeks. The beautiful weather made for an easier transition back to work.

Speaking of fireworks, even playing injured in the wake of this spring's cyclonic episode, Indiana Square gamely put on its annual mind-bending display to rave reviews. You had to love that.

In my personal environs, I noticed what can only be the result of Indiana's new fireworks law. More and bigger pyrotechnics went off from every direction, including two doors down, where my neighbor definitely kicked it up a notch from last year.

A different kind of fireworks took place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the weekend, with the seventh running of the U.S. Grand Prix. As it worked out, the move from mid-June to the July 4 weekend produced no negative consequences I could detect.

I attended for the third time and had a great day, spending about seven hours at the Speedway. I people-watched, listened to a rock band for an hour and a half, ate a pork tenderloin and French fries in the 90-plus-degree heat, and washed it all down with a 24-ounce Foster's.

And, of course, I watched the Big Race.

F-1 isn't my favorite form of auto racing. The same guy-Michael Schumacher-has won the USGP five of the seven times it's taken place. There are fewer lead changes than in open-wheel or NASCAR races, and a lot less excitement, at least for my blood.

But it's still a great spectacle, and this year's race was punctuated by an awesome crash on the first turn of the first lap in which one car went airborne and flipped four times. I'm thankful, of course, that no one was hurt.

It helped that the race began with a full field, as opposed to last year's debacle when 14 of the 22 starters pulled out before the green flag even waved because of faulty tires. It was a PR nightmare that after this year's successful running now appears to be a thing of the past.

The atmosphere in the winner's circle after the race also reflected a reversal of fortune. The joy and champagne craziness stood in sharp contrast to the winners' hangdog countenances of last year, when it appeared the three top finishers wanted to get out of there while the gettin' was good.

If there is anyone among us who still doesn't think the F-1 race is an important event for the city, they probably need to have their heads examined.

A diverse group of rabid fans and racers from all over the world pumps significant cash into the local economy, lends a great international flavor to the city, and makes this event an engaging, entertaining experience that is much different from the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400.

This being the only Formula One race in America, the USGP also brings intense worldwide attention to our city and one of its most valuable assets-the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

One can only hope Speedway head Tony George can come to terms with F-1's enigmatic Bernie Ecclestone to extend the now-expired contract well into the future. The date the race runs is important but secondary. Let's just make sure it keeps running here.

Enjoy the rest of the summer.



Katterjohn is publisher of IBJ. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to ckatterjohn@ibj.com.
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