Opinion: Attending Fire on the Water

Published 10:37 am Monday, July 10, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By BARTON PERKINS | Staff Writer

The first event I covered by myself for the Shelby County reporter was also the first time I’d ever been to Fire on the Water. I really hadn’t known what to do since the holiday was on a Tuesday this year.

The beach of Oak Mountain State Park was packed to the brim with families on Monday, July 3, as Shelby County Residents started their Fourth of July Celebration a day early for the annual return of Fire on the Water.

Teen boys pretended to be samurai swinging wooden poles at each other, couples wandered between food trucks eating slices of greasy pizza and plates of gooey electric-yellow nachos, parents raced toddlers into and back out of the water and I stood to the side of it all flipping the on/off switch of my camera.

At this point, I’d worked at the Shelby County Reporter for roughly a week, and I’d just been sent on my first real outing as a reporter to take “spotted photos” at Fire on the Water. For those of you who’ve never worked in journalism, “spotted photos” refer to pictures taken of groups of people at community events.

Fire on the Water was actually a pretty fun time. People were tearing across the lake in jet skies, sitting on the beach blasting Taylor Swift and grilling out hotdogs on tiny camping grills.

I went to my classic standby for anxiety relief—food. I snagged myself a slice of pizza with a cup of fresh ice-cold lemonade and stuffed them both down.

I swallowed my last gulp of lemonade, and I made my way over to a nearby family, and asked them if they would like to have their photo in the newspaper.

The mom looked at the dad, her eyebrow raised. “Can you believe this?” she said. “This is the third time somebody’s asked us if we’d like to be in the paper.”

After I took their photograph a lot of the fear and anxiety left me. I actually started to kinda enjoy myself a bit, snagging another lemonade and wandering around the event taking more photos. 

Around 6 p.m. the sky opened up, and rain started pelting down on the event. Families quickly started packing up their kids, wrapping beach towels around themselves and racing through the rain back to their cars. Others, hopeful the rain would eventually let up, hid underneath umbrellas, beneath picnic blankets or just stayed out in the rain laughing and splashing in the lake until the thunder started. 

A lot of people stayed until the end of the event. Teenagers played on their phones or sparred with each other with long wooden poles, parents drank beer or took their kids to food trucks and park rangers wandered about making sure everybody was safe and sound. It might have been a wet and soggy Fire on the Water but we all still wound up having a great time.