If you didn’t feel the “Boom!” you weren’t in the Town
By Lynn Volkens
The Casey breathed fire for more than half an hour on the 4th of July as 12,000 explosive shells rocketed Black Hawk’s 22nd annual Boom Town fireworks show into the night sky. The launch site, positioned on the Casey promontory, spewed fiery fountains and spectacles of aerial sparks nonstop for the duration of the show. Anyone thinking the “Boom Town” name is an exaggeration wasn’t in Black Hawk when the “bombs” really began “bursting in air.” Part of the unique fun of the Black Hawk fireworks show is the satisfaction of that resounding window-shaking “BOOM!” that precedes each display, followed by the repeating rollicking reverberations as the sound waves ricochet through the gulches.
The show began around 9:25 p.m. with five single “shots,” spaced a few minutes apart. In respect for the occasion, these are known as the “salutes.” They also serve to alert waiting spectators that the show is about to begin. Thousands of people filled the sidewalks, parking lots and casino rooftops in town. More parked along the roadways leading into Black Hawk, turning pull-off areas at the city’s edge into “auditoriums” of lawn chairs. Some sat on boulders or found a (relatively) flat spot on the sides of steep gulches. Most folks jumped at the suddenness of the first salute. Then they gathered the family around, wrapped up in coats or blankets, and settled back to watch for their favorite pyrotechnic effects and see what was new in this year’s show. Those in the know, watched for blooming flowers, silver crowns and animated sparklers that “danced” sinuously overhead. There was a lot of “oohing and aahing,” many “Wow’s,” lots of “Did you see that…?” a whole bunch of “I liked that one,” and even a few “What was that?” as various shapes appeared in the sky. Boom Town features the latest pyrotechnic innovations, the same as those shown at Disney World and the Montreal International Fireworks Competition. New to Boom Town, this year, was the ability to stream music, synchronized to the show by Black Hawk information technicians and the pyrotechnic experts of Western Enterprises. Casinos in town channeled the music through street-side loudspeaker systems; individuals accessed it via iPads or other electronic devices. Some folks opted out of the music, preferring the “boomers and screamers” – the sound effects of the exploding shells.
All the while Black Hawk residents and visitors were enjoying the spectacle of the show, firefighters from the Black Hawk, Central City and Timberline fire departments were working to insure a safe show. Firefighters forego the pleasure of watching the sparks in the sky in order to watch for sparks on the ground. Spotters stationed at strategic vantage points throughout the area communicate by radio to send firefighters to any area of concern. A larger crew stands on watch, with their heads literally in the clouds of smoke and sparks at the launch site, but with heavily booted feet firmly on the ground as they stomp out any sparks that land in the brush. This year Mother Nature was a great help in providing a damp and rainy afternoon and then shutting off the waterworks in early evening. Last year, the city wasn’t so fortunate. Conditions were very dry and the risk of wildfire was considered too great. Black Hawk cancelled the 4th of July show, opting instead to have a smaller show in the fall and donating half their fireworks budget ($32,000) to victims of last summer’s wildfires. This year, Boom Town was back in full force with a budget of $72,000.
Western Enterprises has been Black Hawk’s pyrotechnic contractor for many years. Each year, as Western proposes their contract for the next Boom Town show, they offer an incentive of more fireworks if the city will commit and pay early. Black Hawk’s city council has been amenable, but rather than lengthen the duration of the show, they’ve repeatedly asked, “Can you make the show more intense?” After seeing this year’s show, many folks pronounced it “The best ever,” leaving the question of how the council will ever top it. How could Boom Town, already with so many firework effects exploding simultaneously that it’s hard to take them all in, possibly get more intense? Maybe next year, the spectators will have to duck.