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Without common courtesy, fireworks would fizzle

As rockets light up the sky over Silver Lake Park tonight, the police officers and community service officers who are on duty likely won’t be watching the show, which is sponsored by Post-Bulletin Charities.

Rather, their eyes will be on the tens of thousands of people who will gather in and around the park for the annual Fourth of July festivities. In the past two years, fights have occurred after the fireworks, and when you factor in the recent series of gang-related incidents during Rochesterfest, it’s appropriate that any significant gathering of young people among the crowd will receive some extra scrutiny.

But let’s not overreact, Rochester. Despite what you might have heard or read, every gathering of young people isn’t a gang fight waiting to happen. Teenagers in Rochester don’t have an abundance of low-cost entertainment options, so it isn’t surprising that summer festivals and holiday events bring them out in great numbers. Most of the time, their only goal is to hang out with friends, enjoy some time away from their parents and generally act like teenagers.

That doesn’t give young people a license to be rude or to disrupt other peoples’ enjoyment, but common courtesy extends both ways. People with young children or those who prefer a more sedate environment this evening shouldn’t put their blankets and chairs near a bunch of teens and then expect behavior worthy of a Sunday School class.

And when the show is over, courtesy will become even more important as thousands of drivers and pedestrians try to escape the annual gridlock. It’s Friday night, folks, and most of you don’t need to be at work Saturday morning, so relax. Talk to your friends or family as you sit in the car. Keep the honking and muttering to a minimum. If someone cuts you off, don’t take it personally. You’ll get home eventually.

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The stakes are high tonight. If a few bad apples spoil things, and if Saturday morning people are talking about fights, assaults or near-riots at the fireworks, then next year’s Rochesterfest is more likely to include security checkpoints and a lot more chain-link fences.

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