My name is Steve Devore, and I am the President of the Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce was responsible for planning, coordinating and sponsoring the 4th of July community event this past weekend. In consultation with the Gardner Department of Public Safety, and the pyrotechnics team who launched the display, I was responsible for ultimately making the decision to begin the show early. It was not the City’s decision, nor anyone else, but mine. I understand the disappointment and confusion that my decision caused for many of our residents and guests, so I want to take a few minutes to explain why that decision was made, and the extremely short period of time in which it occurred.
A community fireworks display is not just a show, but a carefully planned and executed production. Our production began at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday morning with the fireworks being delivered to the launch site. It took 5 members of a professional pyrotechnics team almost 9 hours to completely unload, organize, and set up the display. It is important to understand there is a significant difference between a commercial display and one you might have in your own neighborhood. First, we had arranged to have over 1,000 individual fireworks launched through the course of the display. The majority of these fireworks needed to be loaded into special launch racks, one at a time. Launch racks, holding approximately 40-50 fireworks each, require a large area for separation and ensure a safe environment so no accidental launch occurs. Finally, each firework must be individually connected to an electronic wiring system that allows them to be launched. Today, everything is controlled electronically, to ensure safety, and enhance the spectator experience.
As you can see, the whole process is both time consuming and very dependent upon the weather. If rain occurs, at any time during this process, fireworks can get wet and malfunction or ruined, electronics can be damaged and cause accidental discharge or mis-fire, and the whole production grind to an immediate halt. Unfortunately, although we had nice weather throughout the day to allow the production to be set up, the concert band to begin playing, and people arrive at the High School, the weather changed very quickly prior to the scheduled display time, and a decision needed to be made within a small window of time, approximately 5-10 minutes before the heavy rains began, if we should shoot early, or risk loosing all of our display.
The three primary factors involved in my decision were:
• Safety – Was it safe to shoot early, or cancel the show? It was determined to be safe to shoot early if we acted immediately. To wait or cancel caused greater safety concerns.
• Timing – Was there sufficient time to attempt to cover all fireworks to prevent damage? It was determined that there was not time to cover all fireworks in a safe fashion before rain damage occurred. Please remember these fireworks are like a loaded gun, ready to discharge and potentially cause serious injury or death. To enter the safety zone surrounding the fireworks after they are armed, to either cover or uncover them, has great risk involved. As importantly, the weather called for greater chances of rain all day Monday, our scheduled rain-out day, so to find a 9 hour window to set up and shoot the display looked to be very difficult, if not impossible.
• Fiscal Responsibility – Many individuals, including businesses and the City of Gardner donated money to support our community during this event. To weigh the benefit of shooting early, so some could witness the impact of these donations, versus wasting donated dollars on ruined product never to be shot or seen, seemed the prudent and appropriate decision.
Although I regret having to make the decision to shoot our display early, and upset and disappoint the very residents who make living in our community a positive experience, I felt it was the best decision to make, given the facts and information available in a very short period of time.
If you have additional questions, or want to discuss this further, I encourage you to contact me at the Chamber Office, (913)856.6464.
Steve Devore is the Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce President.