Winterblast - Every year on President's Day!

Winterblast a fireworks convention in Lake Havasu City

A huge fireworks convention occurs every year in Lake Havasu - Sounds like fun.


February 08, 2009 |

Arizona Living

Spectacular fireworks display steals show at Lake Havasu

by Roger Naylor - Feb. 6, 2009 12:00 AM

Special for The Republic

Lake Havasu City hosts a convention next week.

Normally, that wouldn't generate much excitement, but these conventioneers like to let off a little steam at the end of the day, and thousands come from all across the Southwest to watch. When these guys party, they light up the heavens.

The Western Pyrotechnic Association, an organization of professional fireworks manufacturers, distributors and showmen, has been holding its annual gathering, Winterblast, in Lake Havasu City during Presidents Day week since 1990. This year, Winterblast takes place Wednesday through Feb. 15.

During the day, attendees conduct typical convention business. They hold seminars, listen to guest speakers and browse vendor exhibits. Once the sun goes down, they head for SARA Park, where they unleash a dazzling display of their talents and wares.

Jarrod Lyman, public-relations manager with Lake Havasu City Convention and Visitors Bureau, grew up in town and eagerly anticipates Winterblast each year. When describing the event, he sounds like the wide-eyed spectator he says he has always been.

"This is nothing like a typical fireworks display. The scope of the shows and the variety always amazes me," he says. "These guys are constantly experimenting and adding new things to the mix. They're trying new chemical compounds and creating different colors."

Good-natured competition fuels Winterblast. It's one thing to make civilians "ooh" and "aah" during a fireworks display. It's another thing altogether to wow fellow professionals.

"These are the companies that compete to put on shows at the Super Bowl, the Olympics, World Cup and at major events around the globe," says Kief Adler, Winterblast chairman. "In fact, Sammy Bruggema of Pyro Spectaculars is coming to Lake Havasu directly from the Super Bowl in Tampa just to choreograph and run our Saturday-night show."

Fireworks go off each night and are free to the public. Shows on Wednesday and Thursday are preludes to the sky-scorching extravaganzas scheduled for the weekend. Normally, there's one all-out breath-stealing show, but in honor of the WPA's 20th anniversary, the association has added a second show.

Next Friday, AM Pyrotechnics will illuminate the sky with an internationally flavored fusillade. In addition to the company's domestic fireworks, it uses explosives from China, Japan, Italy and Spain, many of which are unavailable in this country. The display is a blend of seamlessly synchronized styles, with shells up to 24 inches in diameter, almost unheard now.

"Those monster shells are so rare because very few people make them and very few places have the room to shoot them," Adler says. "A 24-inch shell can weigh 200 pounds, and it makes a remarkable impression, absolutely filling the sky."

Feb. 14 will belong to Pyro Spectaculars, in the business of making jaws drop for more than 90 years. Besides handling shows for multiple Super Bowls and Olympics, Pyro Spectaculars is a veteran of the Statue of Liberty's 100th anniversary, presidential inaugurations, Pink Floyd concerts and the Macy's Fourth of July presentations. The company is known for its impeccable choreography and dramatic set pieces - elaborate pictures created from fireworks.

This is the first time Winterblast has been stretched to five days. The traditional firecracker pile has grown as well. Three million firecrackers will be ignited while draped over a giant XX, symbolizing the 20 years that the skies above Lake Havasu City have erupted in showery light.

Feb. 15 finishes with a members showcase, re-creating some of the greatest moments of Winterblasts past.

"What we do every Presidents Day weekend amounts to the biggest fireworks show west of the Mississippi," Adler says. "And 2009 is going to be the most amazing one of all. These are difficult times, so now more than ever, a big old fireworks show can be a welcome and much-needed diversion."


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