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BEST FIREWORKS DISPLAY Minneapolis 1998 -

Are you the kind of fireworks fanatic who hunts down the biggest holiday display and gets there two hours early? Do you fantasize that just once, the fuse guy will slip and shoot off the whole enchilada at once? When the rest of us are singing "Auld Lang Syne," are you jonesing for the Fourth of July? Pyromaniacs rejoice. For two years, no matter what the weather's been like, the city of St. Paul and a bevy of corporate sponsors have joined the nonprofit Culture Inc. in hosting a family-friendly (read: alcohol-free) New Year's shindig in downtown St. Paul. The climax of the all-day, multistage event ("passports" last year cost $8) is a free 15-minute midnight fireworks display launched from the Mississippi riverfront. Oh sure, they have all the classics--big peony-shaped bursts, noisy white rockets that shoot up and out like a champagne flute. But the fine folks at Melrose Pyrotechnics also seem to have a penchant for the exotic. The most recent display sported explosions of bright, ring-encircled spheres and--in keeping with the noisemakers-and-kisses theme--rockets that left long, curly contrails shaped like streamers.

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