WHAT: PGI RETURNS TO MASON CITY, IOWA WHY: PYROTECHNIC GUILD INTERNATIONAL DISPLAY EVENT – THUNDER AND FIRE WHERE: NORTH IOWA EVENTS CENTRE, MASON CITY, IOWA WHEN: SUNDAY 5TH, TUESDAY 7TH AND FRIDAY 1ST AUGUST 2018 COST: VARIES – SEE PGI WEBSITE FOR MORE DETAILS
The event, titled ‘Thunder and Fire’ is there to showcase new products, better and more stringent safety measures and the choreography, science and sheer creativity of the international pyrotechnicians. Around 3000 members of the PGI will be gathered together to share current best practice and catch up with old and new friends in the warmth of the Iowan sunshine as temperatures reach around 80 degrees at this time of the year. The event is family friendly and brings in the region of $2 million into the local economy.
The PGI was established in 1969 and this independent worldwide organization was to create a channel for sharing knowledge and experience and to witness first hand the advances in the industry. They currently have around 3500 members who range from the dedicated pyro enthusiast to those with a passing interest but may have a love of old firework ephemera or indeed, the technical side of firing systems etc.
The guild offers safety and training alongside display operative training days. They also have a charming ‘Help a Pyro’ to assist those who have fallen on hard times, either through financial hardship or indeed a health issue to support them in their time of need. It is odd that in such an incredibly competitive industry that their numbers would offer support so readily.
Tickets range from around $18-$20 for standard admission but reserved seating is only available for the Friday night show which is around $25-$30. The gates to the event arena are open from around 6pm and there are onsite food and beverage concessions available as well as onsite camping.
The guild was founded in 1969 by Max P Van der Horck who wanted to encourage the display of both public and private display fireworks to the masses. He also wanted the industry to remove the shroud of secrecy it is surrounded by and share the knowledge to those in power, like the political elite and the general public alike so that the use of fireworks was not lost forever. They need to ensure that safety is a priority and that the gathered energies of so many like-minded people actually get a voice and allow creativity to flow providing ideas and suggestions by the bucket load.
If you check back over time, it is surprising how often fireworks have been used around the globe but essentially, since the Americas were discovered, there have always been displays for one reason or another.
The guild has around 3500 members who range from the hobbyist all the way up to the hard-core technicians and everyone learns from one another.
The event is an opportunity for attendees to visit workshops and seminars on construction of pyrotechnics for everything from a little garden fountain all they way up to a huge 24 inch shell creation. There are classes for attendees to be certified as professional firers – the USA’s Display Operators Course DOC is equivalent to our BPA British Pyrotechnic Association certification. Safety briefings, how to make fireworks more environmentally friendly and everything in between.
There will be four display nights which are as follows:
Tuesday 11th August 2015 Pyro FX Display and Casabella Fireworks.
Wednesday 12th August 2015 Hollywood Pyrotechnics.
Friday 14th August 2015 All Star Showcase – this is a composite display featuring cross company products.
Finale – To Be Announced.
Because this event appeals to a wide range of people from the young lad wanting to learn more for his chemistry test to the consummate professionals like the Zambellis, who are to fireworks what the Kennedy’s were to the US’s political history, there is something for everyone. During the writing of this blog, I had to check into some details about the Zambelli’s and checking out their photo gallery is awesome. They (as in one or other of the family members over the last century or so!) have met and in many cases fired for the last 9 presidents including as mentioned the Kennedy’s both Bush senior and junior, the Carters, the Reagan’s, the Pope, the Prime Minister and most of the heads of state across the world.
As there is entertainment on throughout for the children young and old alike, you need to be aware that absolutely NO outside food is permitted on the site due to the huge number of concessions about.
So, if you are connected to fireworks, whether in the industry as a firer or a retailer, this is just the ticket with days packed to the rafters with pyro. Collectors can pick up some unique ephemera and if you can’t resist getting involved (we know … a couple of days and you have to touch some!) there are lots of ‘volunteer’ opportunities as they set up mega strings of firecrackers (last event more than 3 million!) as ‘firing crew’ for one or other of the teams showcasing their abilities.
Previous visitors have said that this is a must do experience for anyone connected with pyro and it is a truly family orientated event. The organisers will even arrange accommodation for you and the family in a camper van (think Winnebago/Walter White rather than VW Camper/Scooby Doo).
Here’s a cool video below from the Grand Public Display shot by Wolverine Fireworks Display, Inc. at the 2014 Pyrotechnics Guild International held in Mason City, IA.