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By Staff | Jul 25, 2018

Bruce and I decided it would make a nice short vacation, for us and our wives, if we took a two-day trip to Cleveland over the Fourth of July (4-5).

We made all the plans a few months in advance and felt everything was under control. We booked the downtown Marriott and purchased VIP tickets at the Blossom Center for Hank Jr. and Brad Paisley. What more could you ask?

From past experience of living and visiting Cleveland, I knew the city always had one of the greatest fireworks displays over Lake Erie at Edgewater Park, on the West Side of town.

After arriving in the city at about 1 p.m. on July 4, and the temperature around 95 degrees, we checked into what turned out to be a couple nice rooms. Actually, they were suites – which were almost like apartments in the restored 1890 building.

We unloaded, rested up for about and hour, and headed downtown walking. Unknown to us, most everything downtown was closed for the holiday. The casino, however, was open, and we went in for the buffet. Delicious food!

We then decided to walk over to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. I purchased a $40 hat while there and a magnet for my wife’s collection. We walked back up to the hotel, showered up, and headed toward the West Side for the fireworks.

I drove and told the vehicle’s occupants not to worry; I knew my way around. Just get on Lorain Boulevard and hit West 65th Street; expect a lot of traffic, because there will be thousands of people there. We made it after getting lost a couple times, and when we pulled into the Park, traffic was heavy. We managed to get a good parking spot after persuading the mounted police we needed up close to get some good pictures for the paper. (Well, we had to try something.)

We arrived around 8 p.m., and around 9:30, we could see fireworks going off near Cedar Point and Downtown but nothing at Edgewater. At 10 p.m. people started leaving, so I asked a security person what time the fireworks started, and he said they just received word it was all changed to the Flats Downtown. Those were the ones we could barely see from the Park. Still, it was good to be at Edgewater Park. Kids were shooting sparklers; others were letting off fireworks, and people were picnicing and grilling. There were a few vendors, but it wasn’t the same.

Now can you imagine thousands of upset people all trying to get out of the park at the same time? It was a nightmare and became scarier. Once we cleared the park, I told my wife that if I could get on West 65th again, we could shoot right back downtown. It was nearly midnight when a police officer let us through a barricade to get to 65th.

That’s when the fun began. We drove about two blocks when a guy cut us off and pulled up to the corner for an apparent drug deal. Around that, we zoomed, and then Bruce’s wife said, “Look over there! He has not a stitch of clothes on!” I said, “Don’t look Donna,” but it was too late. She’d already gotten a free shot. (That’s my sports story for this column.)

Anyway, he was naked in the yard and roasting wieners. We got by that, and after a couple more blocks, stood two “Ladies of the Night,” as Bruce calls them. They tried to flag us over. Without stopping for the stop sign, I admitted I might be lost. Bruce got out his GPS, and it gave us directions – right into the old warehouse, steel mill district. We soon realized we were in the wrong place as we came to a dead end with two cars setting there. After seeing some doors opening, I floored it and got out of there. We soon made it back to the hotel. What an experience!

The next day would surely be better! After all, we had the concert to look forward to. The Blossom Center is about 30 miles from downtown between Akron and Cleveland, in a kind of remote area. However, with very little difficulty, we made it. Once again, getting a great parking spot.

It was a stormy night, and the gates were slow opening. Once they started letting people in, we headed to the gates. I zipped around everyone and got through with some great credentials along with a line of “I’m from West Virginia, near Brad’s hometown. I plan on writing something about this concert.”

They bought it – hook, line, and sinker. I told them I had three more people with me, from whom I had been separated. I asked security if I could go get them. She took me to the gate and waited until I brought Bruce and the wives with me. We headed for our VIP seating. Great seats right up front – push the button, and they bring your drinks and food. Now that was service!

Everything was going right. The opening act came out with Hank Jr. following and putting on a great show. After Hank, the headliner Brad Paisley got the crowd really fired up. However, after a few songs and twenty minutes into his act, it happened.

“Clear the Blossom Center,” came over the PA system. “There’s a severe storm heading our way, strong winds, lightning, and heavy rain.” Now can you imagine, once again, thousands of people trying to evacuate all at once?

We made it back to the car, soaked but alive. That’s when I discovered my new hat was missing. Yep, left it in the VIP section. Well, no way was I going back – just another day in paradise.

So, to break it down, here’s how it goes: “Went to Cleveland to see the great fireworks display, missed them! Got to see a drug deal instead (nothing new there), a naked man roasting wieners, two ladies of the night, about got murdered in the wrong part of the West Side. Went to the Brad Paisley concert, got run out, and litterally lost my hat.”

Through it all we laughed and talked and had a great time, that’s all that matters. eparsons@tylerstarnews.com