LACONIA — There’s an art to a good fireworks display. Atlas Fireworks knows that, as the company’s pyrotechnicians participate in competitions around the world.
A growing number of amateur fireworks enthusiasts know that, too, said Steve Pelkey, owner of Atlas.
For a couple of years, he’s been chewing on the idea of an event that could welcome some of the more sophisticated amateurs into the competitive world, and the result is an hour-long fireworks show scheduled to take place this Saturday at Weirs Beach.
The inaugural Lake Winni Fireworks Competition will begin at 8:50 p.m. on Saturday, May 25. Pelkey said he couldn’t get enough amateurs to sign up, so this year’s competition will feature five teams of apprentice pyrotechnicians, each representing different corners of Winnipesaukee: Alton Bay, Center Harbor, Gilford, Laconia and Meredith.
Each team has been given eight minutes to design the most impressive display they can think of, using consumer-grade fireworks available at any of the Atlas stores, such as the one on Route 3 in Belmont.
After all five shows, viewers — there is no admission fee — can go onto Atlas Pyrovision Entertainment’s Facebook page and vote for their favorite. At 9:45 p.m., Atlas’s professional crew will put on a finale display.
“We wanted to choose a time of year that would be most beneficial to the location that would be hosting it, also to use it as a demonstration of what is available of our consumer products,” Pelkey said.
Memorial Day Weekend kicks of not just tourism season, it’s also the start of fireworks season. Pelkey said his company is providing all of the fireworks and that sponsors are underwriting ancillary costs. There will be no cost to the city or to the public associated with the event.
“In future years, we’re hoping to involve other nonprofit organizations,” Pelkey said, adding that he is also hoping to use the event to showcase Weirs Beach, which hosts several fireworks displays throughout the summer. “It’s really something to be proud of,” he said.
He is also hoping that some accomplished amateurs will see the displays on Saturday and decide to sign up next year to show off their explosive creativity.
“We were trying to gather interest in not only showcasing some of the unique backyard fireworks but also to exhibit the talents of some of the people, so, who knows, they might become professional pyrotechnicians working with some of our crews,” Pelkey said.
The use of fireworks comes with an inherent risk — one that can turn a summer party into an emergency.
“We certainly have had issues in the past with injuries and/or fires related to the use of fireworks or the improper disposal of fireworks afterward,” said Laconia Fire Chief Kirk Beattie. He noted that only people 21 years old or older are allowed to legally purchase or use fireworks in New Hampshire, and that you must be on your own property, or have permission from the landowner, to use them. In some towns, you need a permit from the fire department as well.
Once the proper permissions are in place, Beattie said a few steps can be taken to avoid a dangerous situation.
“Make sure that everyone who is watching is a safe distance away, and that the person lighting them has read the instructions and knows how these are supposed to work,” Beattie said, adding, “The use of these types of devices and alcohol never mix.”
People using fireworks should take the above precautions to minimize the risk of injury, and they should also be aware of the risk of fire, Beattie said. Have a fire extinguisher or garden hose at the ready, as well as a bucket of water to place the expended fireworks in.
“People dispose of them in the garbage can, later on that night we have a garage on fire,” Beattie said.