More than 1,000 fireworks peppered the clear Clovis skies Tuesday at Greene Acres Park during the city’s annual Smoke on the Water fireworks display. (Staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
The quartet drags five, heavy tarps from the trailer, and a city of fireworks is exposed.
“Mainly, the tarps protect the fireworks from rain. Rain ruins fireworks,” said fireworks aficionado Jay Scott from atop a trailer, where lines of skinny wire trail from dozens of cylinders. Each wire is attached to a hand-grenade-sized explosive, which lies dormant inside the cylinder until Scott sends a bolt of electricity through it, via a switch.
Scott and his crew, employees of Skyworks, LTD. of Oklahoma, set off more than 1,000 explosives Tuesday at the Clovis Smoke on the Water fireworks display.
Hundreds of Clovis residents gathered to witness the pyrotechnics, which lit up the night sky. But the intricate network of employees and gadgets which make the show possible is well-hidden from the public eye.
Scott insists observers are kept at bay — no one is allowed within 600 feet of the trailer during the show. Blockades cordon off the trailer and nearby side streets.
“Distance is the most important (safety precaution). I don’t want no one to get hurt,” said Scott, who resides in Newcastle, Okla.
He and his wife have traveled to New Mexico for the past five years to execute fireworks displays in Roswell and Clovis. They are usually joined by their cousin, Jill McDonald, and a few other Skyworks employees.
“Once you do it (a fireworks show), you’re hooked,” said Scott’s wife, Debbie.
“The crowd is the best part of the show. You can always tell if they liked it,” McDonald said.
Yet, the danger inherent in the business never completely erodes.
Even Scott and his crew — who wear T-shirts which read, ‘If you see me running, try to keep up’ — maintain their distance during the show.
At Greene Acres Park, they usually gather near a grove of trees several feet from the trailer, Scott said. From there, they flip switches and watch the show.
The elephantine trailer which carries the explosives rocks back and forth as the fireworks shoot into the sky. As the show proceeds, the trailer gets hotter and hotter. The Skyworks’ crew allows the trailer to cool at least 20 minutes before approaching it, Scott said.
Thus far, the crew has eluded fireworks-related injury.
“I prefer electric (fireworks) shows,” said Scott, who, a few hours before the show, bustles from between the trailer to a U-Haul truck, where a much needed conduit in the show, a 100-foot cable, lies coiled.
“With manual shows, you are always runnin’ around and ducking. In an electric show, you can sit back and enjoy the show right along with the crowd,” he said.
The father of three was lured into pyrotechnics by the owner of Skyworks, a member of his Oklahoma Baptist church.
“The kids were too small so I kept turning him down. When they got big enough, we went ahead and did it. We’ve loved it ever since,” Scott said.
These days, his wife and older daughters — twins — join him on the road. He leaves his regular job, in road equipment maintenance, for about a week to execute the two New Mexico shows.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said.
But mishaps do come with the job.
The first time the couple did the Smoke on the Water show, a huge thunderstorm rolled over the area, burying their trailer in mud. Luckily, Scott said, local firemen and city workers helped save the fireworks from their biggest enemy, the rain, by throwing the tarps back over the wires, cylinders and explosives.
“It has gotten better since then,” Scott said.
“Clovis is an excellent place (to set off fireworks). Everybody does everything they can to help us. That makes it real nice to come here. You don’t have to fight to get it done, and we can keep everybody safe.”