By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe
When Schoolcraft’s 4th of July fireworks show resumes next week, the volunteer team who ran it for years will be watching from a new location: the sidelines.
Randey Palmer, retired fireworks director, and his team had the privilege and responsibility of running the community event for many years. Palmer is proud of the record of his skilled team of volunteers. They were highly trained, competent, licensed and insured. They were passionate about producing a safe show, and there were no injuries to crew or crowd during the group’s tenure.
“I began helping Chip Mongrieg with the show in 2006,” says Palmer. Mongrieg had run the show since 1998 after Thorne Angell’s years of volunteerism in the early 1990s.
Palmer explained some of the rules and regulations when working with fireworks. The shells — called mortars — are stored in a licensed and inspected “C-Box” — a type of shipping container. The interior is lined with wood with no metal exposed which greatly reduces the risk of sparks.
Palmer, his brother Rodney Palmer and Mongrieg comprised the main team. Palmer said for the most part it was a small group because the work is careful and precise. They always needed to keep safety in mind.
Palmer says over the years the show grew in length and complexity. “One of the things that set our show apart was our ‘front,’ a long section of eight stations in front of the main show that involved an intense display which started the evening’s show.”
Palmer says the size of mortar used also added to the beauty of each year’s display. Mortars must fit into tubes which hold the various sizes of mortars: Schoolcraft’s technicians used tubes ranging from three inches to even eight inches, which Palmer describes as “the diameter of a volleyball.”
This size enabled the team to launch displays that were bigger and went higher.
Palmer says as the years went on, the shows became longer and included some flashier things, all set to music. The show grew to nearly 1,000 shells—which means nearly 1,000 detonations, all triggered by carefully attached wire.
Palmer says Jon Krum was responsible for all the fundraising done for the fireworks, and because the operation was all-volunteer, all the funds went into the purchase of fireworks for the show.
“I won’t miss the stress involved in the preparation and especially the night of the show. So many things can go wrong, and we always wanted everything to go just right.”
Things did go “just right” for the team over the years, which their safety record proves.
“I will miss creating this show for our community, but it was time to pass it on.”
Palmer, his brother and Mongrieg will watch this year’s show together. They are interested in what’s happening and will enjoy viewing the show without the stress and responsibility.
By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe