Kiwanis Club July 4th Fireworks Extravaganza Is On!

A dazzling display in the sky during the fireworks extravaganza hosted by the Kiwanis Club in 2017 at Overlook Park in White Rock. The show was canceled in 2018 due to drought conditions plaguing the area. The show WILL go on this 4th of July. Photo by John McHale/

Los Alamos Kiwanis Fireworks Chairman Pat Soran briefs volunteers Saturday at Overlook Park on how to ‘squib’ a shell for the Fourth of July Fireworks. The last step is to hold the shell by its electronic fuse and make sure that the entire package holds together. Photo by Stuart C. Schaller

For the Kiwanis Club of Los Alamos

Yes! The Kiwanis Club of Los Alamos IS going to put on a fireworks show this year. The spring rains in 2019 have been a total contrast to the dry, dusty conditions in 2018 that forced cancellation of the traditional show in Overlook Park.

Twenty volunteers—Kiwanis members, family members, and friends—spent a total of more than 95 hours of dedicated, intense work on Saturday “squibbing” hundreds of shells—a process that involves adding electronic fuses to each shell to reduce greatly the likelihood of “duds” delaying the show.

The Show

Asked about this year’s show, Fireworks Chairman Pat Soran said, “It’s going to be a great show.”

The show will feature thousands of shells, he said, and, as the show starts, and once again near the end of the program, some shells will be fired in a “special display” that will be all red, white, and blue. Shells fired high into the sky will be coordinated with exploding “basins”—ground-mounted containers of many small shells that will also feature Fourth of July colors.

Soran noted that the basins—which are great favorites among Kiwanis members who prepare the show—are a special present to those who come to watch the show from the soccer field in Overlook Park, because they are only visible in all their glory to those on the field.

Fireworks Co-Chairman Rick Reiss—who did the computer work that created the plan for the show— said there will be 29 basins this year, each with 100 or more small shells that fire at the same time.

Reiss said the show also will include:

  • A total of 224 three-inch shells, fired in clusters of seven;
  • More than 200 four-inch shells;
  • Seventy-two five-inch shells;
  • Seventy-two six-inch shells;
  • And eight big, bright, eight-inch shells.

The show will start promptly at 9:15 p.m., right after Kiwanis Secretary Louise Mendius sings the “Star Spangles Banner.” It will paint the sky in beautiful colors and designs, non-stop, for exactly 30 minutes.

The Cost

Kiwanis is asking that adults and teens who attend the fireworks donate $5 each for the show. Children 12 and younger may watch the show free. There will be no reduced price for carloads of people.

Steve Boerigter, chairman of the Fourth of July Festivities (which, as usual, will include booths on the field), explained that the money donated this year will pay for fireworks next year. Kiwanis receives no official, public funding for putting on the fireworks show, so money from the public is essential.

When the show had to be canceled last year, Kiwanis suffered a serious financial blow. As a result, the club has sold candy and popcorn to the public all year. The club also gave up catering of the luncheon at its weekly meeting. Kiwanis volunteers now cook lunch for a room full of people.

However, Boerigter, Doug Hemphill, and Don Casperson worked hard this year to try to persuade more local businesspeople to serve as sponsors of the show—and their effort succeeded.

Sponsors this year donated $7,400 plus in-kind gifts—more than twice the total amount in 2017. Kiwanis is very grateful for their generous support and hopes the public will respond by thanking them and supporting them. Here’s the list of 2019 sponsors and their donated amounts:

  • Enterprise Bank and Trust, $2,500;
  • 999 Control, $1,500;
  • ReMax, $1,000;
  • Tech Source, $500;
  • Zia Credit Union, $500;
  • Century Bank, $500;
  • Hartway and Breshears, $500;
  • Gateway Mortgage Co., $200;
  • Los Alamos Children’s Dentistry, $100;
  • Lisa Shin, $100;
  • Holiday Inn Express, use of three rooms for free; and
  • And Frank’s Supply, use of a generator to power the bouncy toys.

Soran noted that Kiwanis has been using the same electronic system since 2005, and the “software is now outdated.” If donations this year are generous enough, he said, “We will upgrade the system next year.”

Kiwanis is also aware that the price of fireworks from China could go up sharply next year if the tariff struggle between the U.S. and China continues.

The fireworks show usually draws several thousand people, and parking is limited. If you want to drive and get a good space, come early, settle in, and visit the food booths, bouncy toys, and other attractions on the field.

There are optios: You can also enter the park through the walk-in gate, or ride to the park on a city bus. Kiwanis will have people on the field, however, asking everyone they meet for donations, from 10 a.m. on. The club will start staffing at 4 p.m. all the gates to Overlook Park.

Safety Considerations

Firemen in Roswell were inside a large building, moving fireworks in preparation for their city’s show this year, when a major fire broke out and seriously injured several people.

As a result, Los Alamos, Kiwanis, and the public in general are very concerned about the safety of preparations for and production of the local fireworks show this year.

Members of the club are quick to point out that they have been putting on this show for some 25 years without experiencing a single serious accident.

Soran has special training in fireworks safety, which he has shared with Reiss and other volunteers.

The shells are stored properly and checked frequently, in compliance with federal laws.

The Los Alamos Fire Department is always at the fireworks show, ready and able to put out any blaze that develops, and this year, as in past years, Kiwanis will have its members alert for fires and ready to use 100 fire extinguishers that will be available to them.

The Police Department is also at the park on July Fourth to assist the flow of traffic in and out and to make sure that all goes well.

Kiwanis members on the firing line wear long-sleeved cotton shirts and cotton pants for safety reasons. They use safety glasses, ear plugs, and protective hoods.

And this year, the Los Alamos County Fire Marshal visited the squibbing site, where he watched, commented, made suggestions, and sometimes helped as Kiwanis members did their work—and he is expected to be on the firing line July 4, making sure that everyone thinks safety.

Kiwanis puts on this annual production as a public service. The club hopes that people won’t be tempted to set off dangerous explosives in their own backyards. Instead, they  can come to Overlook Park and enjoy a good, safe show. The club has invested more than $40,000 in hardware, computers, rails, and other equipment and storage for the show.

Please consider this a personal invitation: Come and join us at a wonderful, patriotic, annual party.

Kiwanian Ann Hayes ‘squibs’ a large shell—while another shell waits its turn. When the shells are delivered, they have black-powder fuses covered in yellow. The black wire that Hayes is holding is an electronic fuse. She has cut into the black-powder fuse and is attaching the electronic fuse to increase the chance that the shell will fire properly. No duds, no delay in the fireworks show! Photo by Stuart C. Schaller