LIMA — To pull off a fireworks show it takes planning, preparation, permits, people and pay.
There’s also uncontrollable conditions such as the weather that can cooperate or wreak havoc.
But when a town’s fireworks show goes off without a hitch and the last firework explodes in the sky to the delight of thousands of spectators no one can be more pleased than the people behind the scenes who put on the show.
The Star Spangled Spectacular is the biggest fireworks show in the region put on at Faurot Park each Fourth of July, save a weather disaster such as last year’s flooding that postponed the show until Labor Day weekend.
Keys to success
To pull the show off it takes nearly $50,000 from generous sponsors, a lot of work at the park, and coordination. Setting up the fireworks begins about three days early with the placement of the tubes at a launching site near Safety City.
Two days out, professionals from Zambelli Fireworks begin placing fireworks in the tubes with fire inspectors nearby. From that point until the show someone is always with the fireworks. A sheriff’s deputy guards the fireworks overnight when the Zambelli employees are not there, said Kurt Neeper, who helps coordinate the event.
“We are lucky to have Zambelli and that they continue to give us what they do. It’s very expensive to provide the show we do. It’s one of the largest shows in Ohio. It’s on par with Dayton and Toledo,” Neeper said.
Zambelli does the New Year’s Eve show in Times Square in New York and the largest show in the country on July 4 in Louisville, Kentucky, Neeper said.
The biggest part of fireworks shows of any size is funding. Some shows have faded away in recent years because of funding. Sometimes others pick up the efforts and try to resurrect shows as is the case in Ottawa.
Faith Baptist Church is bringing back a fireworks show to Ottawa on Sunday from its church that will last up to 25 minutes. It replaces the show that was at the Putnam County Fairgrounds in years past, Pastor Denny Coates said.
“This is our first year to do this,” he added.
Coates is not committing to doing the show every year from here out. He wants to see how the first one goes and decide whether it’s something they want to continue.
“We are just testing the waters,” he said. “We want to try it this year and see how it goes.”
But for this year, everything is in order for a spectacular show that will be visible in the sky at the church and for a good part of the village to see from their yards.
“We love our nation and we want to encourage people to celebrate Independence Day,” Coates said as the reason he and church members wanted to bring back the show.
Church members raised the money for the fireworks, which is expected to cost about $5,000. Church member Ron Honigford is licensed to handle and set off the fireworks, and is donating his talents and time, Coates said.
Those who handle the shows said money is the key factor. Without it the show can’t go on.
Lima’s show has been going for 23 years and the Wapak Community Fireworks has been going since at least the 1980s. Organizers for both shows said they have been very fortunate through the years to have sponsors that believe in the fireworks and that have been generous.
Businesses in both cities donate to make the shows a reality each year.
“We solicit funds from the businesses,” said Mike Wurst, the coordinator for the St. Joe Festival in Wapakoneta at the fairgrounds where the fireworks are set off on July 4 to cap off several days of the festival.
Fireworks are ordered a year in advance and while the amount has remained consistent or increased, it is based on money on hand, which is just more than $10,000 in fireworks for this year’s show, Wurst said.
Wurst said the most challenging part of organizing the show is setting up the contract.
“The hardest thing is determining the cost on a new contract. We are now working on a multiple-year contract,” Wurst said.
Coordinators said the biggest factor in the cost is the price of black powder.
“If China decides to raise the price of black powder we have to decide if we’re going to show less shells or spend more money,” Wurst said.
Behind the scenes
Wurst said there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes effort that people don’t see and may not realize goes on.
Strict laws aimed at safety require fire inspections and firefighters to be on hand during the show. There’s also safe distance requirements spectators must be away from the fireworks, coordinators said.
Setting fireworks off can range from one person lighting the fuses in a coordinated effort to the use of an electronic board Neeper described as looking like a “battleship board” to set off the fireworks. All the fireworks have to be linked and wired to the board, he said.
Bill Clinger, who helps coordinate the Lima show, estimates about 40,000 people pack into Faurot Park to watch the show. He said that number has remained consistent through the years. Shows are popular in communities and highly attended, coordinators said.
The team that works to make the Star Spangled Spectacular is another key part to the show’s success each year, Clinger said.
“The team has been together for a long time. That makes it easy because everybody knows what their responsibilities are,” Clinger said.
Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.