Is Toby Keith from Portland?
(Part the First)


Friday, February 20, 2004


At the recommendation of a friend and fellow pyrotechnician I recently joined the Western Pyrotechnic Association, and I just returned from their annual convention known as the Western Winter Blast. To put it mildly, this is a pyro's wet dream become real because there aren't many places where you can plunk down some cash and pick up a roll of 16,000 (yes, sixteen thousand) firecrackers and then set it off, all perfectly legal and aboveboard with no hassle from The Man:

The flight down was uneventful; I took a turboprop from Vancouver to Seattle and then boarded a jet to Vegas, picked up my rental car and drove to Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The seminars and workshops were held in two different locations; a rec centre that was a few minutes walk from the hotel I was staying at, and a park that was about 15 minutes outside the city limits (I suppose a witty comment about blast radius should go here).

TRAVEL TIP #1: At this time of year, Arizona is an hour ahead of Pacific Time. I found this out when I went to attend the mandatory safety lecture and found that it had already finishedfortunately they were running them at regular intervals so I was able to attend one later in the day. Since I could still attend events and seminars, just not purchase or fire product, the delay was of little consequence. When I did finally attend, I was given a wristband that would identify me as someone who could purchase and fire Class C (consumer) product:

Ah, the product! I took some pictures of the vendor tent where the goods were being sold and as you can see, there was plenty to choose from:


The firing area was a decent distance away from the tent:

The interesting thing, however, was that I ended up not buying a single piece of fiery goodness, mostly because I was afraid that once I started I might not stop ­ but it was a nice feeling to know that if I'd wanted to do so, I could.

It wasn't all fun, though; there were a number of seminars on topics as varied as fireworks show choreography, the challenges of shooting in extremely cold weather, and understanding the basics of computerized firing systems. There were also vendors selling items from t-shirts and stickers to show design software and firing hardware.

Oh hell, who am I kidding ­ it was fun all over, especially in the evenings when there were events such as a fireworks display that I was able to watch from my hotel balcony:

That's all for now; in my next entry, I'll discuss my distaste for excessive displays of patriotism and how the city of Portland conspired to make my trip home less than enjoyable.