Want to know the nitty-gritty, eh? You must be part pyro! Welcome to behind the scenes…
The 4th of July in Hood River might only last one day, but it takes several for this daylong event to come together. The Hood River Fireworks display is a result of careful attention and experience. Prior to 2022 , the Eye Opener Lions Club had been the steward of this event for nearly 40 years.
It was in 2022 that the Eye Opener Lions Club voted to end their participation and release their interest in the display. Brett Stomps, a member of the Eye Opener Lions Club and long time member of the pyro crew created the Hood River Fireworks, LLC to house the event. With the majority of the pyro crew at his side prior to this change, the show transitioned without much notice to the general public.
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All hands on deck! There is a wide variety of tasks our volunteers need to accomplish days in advance and day of. We have volunteers who gather permits, design the show, repair equipment, setup the display, and collect donations. Let’s discuss each one of these roles now.
It is important that our setup day goes smoothly, so this means we must prepare in advance. This includes getting A LOT of permits (11 to be exact). They are required for both the parade, the fireworks display, and for storage of the fireworks. Most of these permits involve approval by the city, Port of Hood River, police departments, and fire departments.
While gathering permits, the fireworks show is designed and each shell is numbered corresponding to its firing sequence (all 370+ of them). Once the design is finalized, we place our order with our fireworks vendor, Western Display.
In June, volunteers review the health of our equipment and inventory supplies. This usually includes racks, tubes, scissors, tape, tin foil, and rubber bands. The most important piece of equipment we check is our control board and firing racks (which hold our firing tubes). Parade Registration is also open during this time.
When we arrive on site July 4th, We unload our fireworks from the truck which arrives that morning and we begin to sort them according to the design sheet. We look for special “shots” (fireworks) that require a unique placement within the show.
With everything accounted for, we begin loading the “shells” (fireworks) from front to back in ascending order as to avoid bending over anything loaded. We also have a sandbox (a trailer full of sand) which is used for boxes (smaller rapid firing shells). These boxes are buried in the sandbox with the top exposed.
With the shells loaded, and the boxes placed, our fuses are still un-wired. Before we wire them, volunteers must rubber band foil on top of the loaded tube and number the shell according to the design sheet. On average, we have about 370+ shells each show, but this is decreasing with the cost of supplies, tariffs, and decrease in donations (click here to donate). It’s important that we are accurate in numbering the right fireworks. The numbers on the tin foil represent the firing sequence and tell us where to wire them.
Once the fireworks are sorted, loaded, and numbered with tin foil, Fuse Boxes are then installed onto the sides of the racks and left unplugged. Fuse boxes are numbered, and will be connected to the corresponding firework number using a Squib.
A squib, is an electronic wire with 2 exposed wires on one end and a prosperous tip on the other. The 2 exposed wires connect to our fuse box using speaker spring clamps, while the prosperous tip is embedded into the tail end of the firework’s fuse. When an electronic signal is sent from the fuse box, current travels through the wire and ignites the prosperous tip in turn igniting our firework’s quick fuse remotely. Wiring these squibs requires the majority of the day.
Finally, once the fireworks are connected to the fuse box via a squib, the fuse boxes are then connected to our Control Panel and the team tests for continuity. Once the connections are verified and all shots are accounted for, it’s time to take a break and wait for show time.
On July 5th, our crew gets breakfast at Betty’s Place (as per tradition) then finishes cleaning up!
Fireworks are placed in a tube, which are mounted on a rack. A wire from our control board extends to a fuse box where a squib bridges the connection from the fuse box to the firework’s fuse. When an electronic signal is sent from the control board it is sent to the corresponding fuse for the corresponding firework number. Then boom! America.
The Eye Opener Lions Club has been collecting donations and setting up the display since 1982-2022.
In the yesteryears, the largest shell fired off was 10″ in diameter. This was before electronic ignition systems were customary as they are today. Volunteers would bravely hand load and hand light 10″ shells. Once lit, there was not a lot of time to run. When you heard the bang, you turned around and run back to prepare the next shell alternating with runners. This would go on for 45 min to 1 hr.
Cascade locks has always raised the water level for the display as well, and still does to this day! There is usually a fly-over by WAAAM and in the past, a fly over by the U.S. Air Force (scheduled with Washington D.C.)
Have a photo of way back when?
The Hood River Fireworks display is more than just a celebration of our nation.
Here in Hood River, I’ve come to find it’s also about coming together as a community to celebrate our home. It’s about the memories we create together at parade, having dinner with our friends and family, and the lives that we shape by providing a helping hand. It’s also about the sacrifices that have been made to give us the freedoms we have today, and those we continue to improve upon. Together, we live and write history simultaneously.
By donating to the Hood River Fireworks display, you are supporting this connected spirit of the Columbia Gorge. You are supporting our local businesses, employees, and creating memories we can all share together for years to come. On behalf of the Hood River Fireworks, we’ll see you down on the port!
Donate what you can so we can light up the sky for you and our community.