Waseca County Pioneer 111 W. Elm Ave.

Waseca, MN (507) 837-6767


Are you a fan of fireworks?

As I write this, I am in OshKosh Wisconsin at the national convention of the Pyrotechnicians’ Guild International (PGI).
If you are a fan of fireworks (and who isn’t?) you wish you were here. This is where pyrotechnicians (“pyros” for short) come to learn more about what they do…and to show off their skills.
There are contests like “Best Class C Fireworks Display” and “Best Aerial Shells.”
The truth of the matter is, other than spouting superlatives, it’s hard to describe how much of a privilege it is to be here. 
Some of you have perhaps heard that my family and I work with fireworks. Enjoyably, it all started because I worked for the Waseca Weekly back in the 1980s. I was sent to interview Ron Anderly about Waseca’s upcoming fireworks display; I asked permission to be present on the hill of Maplewood Park the night of the Fourth. I not only got it, I was invited to bring friends who were interested in helping.
The rest, as they say, is history.
My family and I have been to–and been in charge of–a great many displays since then. Our next pyro adventure is scheduled to be the fireworks at the Waseca Marching Classic in late September.
Before you ask permission to help, you should know that every display is the product of hard work–lifting, carrying, arranging, placing and taking care of technical aspects. You should keep in mind everything you know about Minnesota summers: humidity, heat, mosquitoes, late sunsets, and thus late start and cleanup times.
But even with all those provisos, we’re still doing it 40 years later.
There’s no reason most folks need to know this, but there is a great deal of science involved in creating fireworks. The colors and types of movement are created by choosing what materials–everything from rice husks to metals–are incorporated into the item. The effects–the shape and pattern of the explosions–are created by placing those items strategically.
Centuries have been devoted to learning the finer elements of selection and construction, all to make you say “aah!” at some special event.
The privilege of being at the PGI convention is to meet the folks who have studied these arts, learn some of their techniques, and–foremost–see them displayed.
Imagine what fireworks can be like when experts in the field are showing off their best to other experts. Not that there’s any conceit involved. When a shell falls short or fails to perform all its planned effects, there may be a few jokes, but mostly there is understanding and empathy–a “That’s happened to me, too” sort of response.
Doubtless, you can find videos from this and past PGI conventions online. They will be spectacular and exciting, and certainly I don’t discourage you from watching them. Just let me tell you, those displays are better in person, filling the sky in front of and above you.
I wish you could be here.


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