For the second year in a row, Western Display Fireworks decided to trust Jenn and I to run our own show. This year we were in Happy Valley, OR.
The show was a little smaller than last year with around 300 shells and seven pre-fused boxes. It lasted about 18 minutes.
We had a good crew and both setup and cleanup went surprisingly quickly. Some of the crew are folks who had worked with me in previous years, some were new.
Here are the edited highlights:
One of my crewmembers, Alex, also took some great photos.
We had a lot of visits from city and state officials this year, way more than any other show I’ve ever been on. Fire crews checking things out, asking where to be stationed; police figuring out what the best way to secure things might be; the fire marshal running around with his checklist making sure we’re doing things to spec… it was pretty intimidating, to be honest. Shows how much they’re cracking down on this stuff. I guess they had something like 12 police units out patrolling for illegal fireworks that night.
From a retrospective standpoint there are a couple of things to mention:
- I still hate driving the truck. Just thinking about driving a moving truck makes me tense up. Lighting explosives next to my head? No problem. Driving the moving truck? Problem. Jenn is a freaking truck-driving maniac so she took care of it most of the time, but I still had ample opportunity to tense up behind the wheel.
- It is really, really hard to get a crew together. Really hard. Beyond hard. We had a really great crew this year, just as we did last year, but even giving people over a month’s notice it’s difficult to get folks to commit to being there… and you really need people you can count on to be there, or the whole thing will be a tough stunt to pull off. People cancel at the last minute, people don’t show up… and folks don’t realize that this isn’t like “Hey, I’m having a party, show up if you can” - it’s more “Hey, I truly need some help, so if you say you’re going to make it, I need to actually be able to count on you to be there 100% guaranteed.” Plus, it’s difficult work, lots of lifting and digging and such, and it’s not for everyone, so you sort of “burn through your contacts list” pretty quickly looking for folks. I was working on getting crew together until a week ago.
- We probably could have gone just a tad faster. Looking back at the video, things felt a little slow overall. I don’t remember it being that way when we were there, and watching fireworks on video is sort of dumb and anticlimactic anyway, but there were a few dead spots where I feel like we should have had something in the sky. Granted, we couldn’t have gone too fast or the show would have finished in ten minutes or less… but I think this was maybe more of a 12 - 15 minute show than the 18 minutes we got out of it. Live and learn. You don’t really get to “practice” this stuff.
All in all, it was a great show.
As for next year, I’m not sure what the plan is. It was so hard to get a crew together this year, and there was so much work around coordinating the whole thing - getting the truck, scheduling people to be where they need to be, making sure people have their questions answered, following up to make sure everyone brought everything they were supposed to, etc.
- that it’s really started to be much less fun than it used to be.
In some cases getting a show together is like getting a small wedding together. Is the caterer there? Did the cake arrive? How many people are showing up? Did you plan for enough food? Too much food? Where the hell is the groom? In the end, I’m questioning whether it might be time to take a break.
If I do, I’d either have to let my pyro license expire or do a make-up show (since you have to have a minimum number of shows to renew your license)… but the only reason I have my license is to do shows, so it’s sort of Catch-22-ish. The only reason to be licensed besides that is basically just to have the ability to say I’m licensed.
Anyway, something to think about. In the meantime, we had a great show this year, so thanks to the crew for all their hard work in making it happen!