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Public fireworks display set to go off; Attend city’s big fireworks show while pros handle all the work

The Roswell Fire Department setting up before a fireworks show. (Photo courtesy of RFD)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The city’s annual fireworks extravaganza only lasts for about 30 minutes, but it takes an entire year of planning to put on each show, said Roswell Fire Chief Devin Graham.

“Planning for the show is a year-round process,” Graham said. “About the time we end this year, we will start planning for next year.”

The Roswell Fire Department has been doing the fireworks show in partnership with the Roswell Sertoma Club for around 20 years.

The Sertoma Club usually provides financial support of around $20,000, which covers most of the cost of the fireworks themselves. This year they are providing $21,000.

Graham said the total cost of producing a show is between $45,000 to $50,000.

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“We order them from the distributor and we handle putting on the show,” Graham said. “We choreograph the fireworks with the music.”

The show will be simulcast on Majestic Communications’ 97.1 FM.

Former Roswell Mayor Tom Jennings, who is a Sertoma member, said the Sertoma Club got involved with the public fireworks display around 1995 or 1996.

The show is named in honor of the late Mike Satterfield, who was president of Sertoma at that time. Satterfield owned two motels in Roswell, Jennings said.

“His nickname to me was Sparky because he loved fireworks,” Jennings said. “We would shoot the show but we were a bunch of amateurs, so then we started working with the fire department. It is a big deal to have a big show so they (the fire department) don’t have a lot of small shows that cause fires.”

Jennings said the Sertoma Club also got involved with the Elks Lodge, who hold a barbecue each year on July 4 to honor veterans.

“It is a community effort to make it happen,” Jennings said.

Graham estimated that between 40,000 to 50,000 watch the show each year.

“This includes everyone in the immediate area plus those that view it from their homes,” he said.

RFD Fire Marshal Matt Miller estimated that all of the time preparing for the show equates to about 15 work days. He said the process begins with taking inventory and replacing the tubes that get damaged during a show.

He also said there is a considerable amount of training that goes into preparation for a show.

“It is an extremely dangerous process,” he said.

The firefighters do not light the fuses with matches, like seen in the old movies or like “Road Runner” cartoons when Wile E. Coyote lights a rocket only to have it blow up in his face.

Miller said everything is done electronically. “There are no open flames,” he said.

Miller and Graham said their system is around 20 years old, but still functions safely.

The newer systems, they said, use computer programs to operate the show from start to finish.

Graham said they have not made any requests from the city for a new system, but realize at some point the one they have now will become obsolete.

The weather in Roswell is typically dry around this time of year, Graham said, which contributes to the fire risk for those who want to shoot off fireworks in their backyard.

“We encourage residents to come see the big, public display,” he said.

“It’s free and there’s a ton of other stuff going on,” Miller added.

The celebration starts at 6 p.m. and the fireworks will start around 9:15 p.m.

Graham said that each year the RFD tries to make the show a little bit different.

“There are options for different effects (from the distributors),” he said.

Miller said that in the past, fireworks only were available in about five colors. But in recent years “the colors have gotten crazy.”

Graham said the fireworks manufacturing industry is extremely competitive, so companies are always putting cooler-looking fireworks on the market to stay ahead in the game.

But despite all the hard work and the hours outside in the heat, Graham said the department always enjoys putting on the displays.

“As much as there is that goes into it, there is always a sense of accomplishment putting on a show that people will enjoy.”

Live entertainment will precede the fireworks show with the Swon Brothers as the headliner. Roswell native Kristine Mirelle will open for the Swon Brothers.

“I guess I’m just stoked to be playing with all musicians from New Mexico, seeing old friends and family, and getting to go back to where it all started,” Mirelle said. “I feel like Roswell was always very supportive and I feel so much love from all the people there.”

Other festivities include food vendors, jolly jumps, a trackless train and more. For more information call, 575-629-3442.

For more information about the live entertainment, see today’s Vistas section.

Community News reporter Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or vistas@rdrnews.com.

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