Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fireworks show Carswell’s expertise

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 7/2/2014

A saying Rex Carswell learned at a fireworks school explains why he continues to put on the Fourth of July show each year in Ottawa, he said.

“It was, ‘Once you’ve smelt the smoke and felt the thunder, you shall never again be free,’” Carswell, of Carswell Automotive, 2146 S. Elm St., Ottawa, said with a laugh. “It is the excitement and the adrenaline rush of those things going off around you.”

A saying Rex Carswell learned at a fireworks school explains why he continues to put on the Fourth of July show each year in Ottawa, he said.

“It was, ‘Once you’ve smelt the smoke and felt the thunder, you shall never again be free,’” Carswell, of Carswell Automotive, 2146 S. Elm St., Ottawa, said with a laugh. “It is the excitement and the adrenaline rush of those things going off around you.”

Carswell, a licensed fireworks shooter, has been organizing shows since 1995, he said, most of them in Ottawa, but also tonight’s show in Garnett. This year’s Fourth of July celebration in Ottawa, set for dusk Friday in Forest Park, 320 N. Locust St., Ottawa, not only will include a fireworks display, but a small wink to Ottawa’s coming 150th anniversary celebration.

“The only thing that is going to be different is that we are going to have a sign for the Ottawa Sesquicentennial that will light up towards the end,” Carswell said. “It will burn for a minute or so. It is really only going to be viewable to the people on the Forest Park side.”

A lot of work and funds go into Carswell’s show. The City of Ottawa provided $2,300 for last year’s show. Friday’s display is expected to cost a little more than $5,000 with insurance, and with the remaining funds to pay for it coming from local business donations, Carswell said.

Volunteering every year to put on the show, Carswell said he purchases as many fireworks as he can in the winter to save money.

“We order as much as we have money for in February,” he said. “We try to get as much ordered then as we can so we can get the biggest bang for the buck so to say. Hiring someone to come in on the Fourth to do the same size of display, with set up and tear down, you would almost double the cost of the show from what we spend.”

Carswell is not alone on show night either. He has about 15 to 20 volunteers help him every year set up, shoot off fireworks and tear down, he said. For set up, Carswell said his team loads almost all of the fireworks into fiberglass mortar racks, or tubes that the fireworks shoot out of, before the show. The racks range from 2 1/2 inches in diameter to 6 inches. He has 400 shots for the 2 1/2-inch racks, 75 for the 4-inch, 24 for the 5-inch and 27 for the 6-inch racks, he said.

To continue shooting fireworks for the shows, Carswell also has to renew his license every four years, he said.

“Most of the time when I renew it, I go through a school to keep up to date on everything,” Carswell said. “[We go] over how to shoot it off, what rules may have changed since last time and what type of questions are going to be on your test. They usually have a fire marshal person there to administer the test.”

While Carswell enjoys the excitement of giving people a good show, relief always comes when it’s over, he said.

“That is when all the worries — trying to make sure you’ve got everything covered and all the things handled that we need to handle — [go away],” Carswell said with another laugh. “When you are shooting them off, you don’t really get to enjoy the show from a watching standpoint. You see very few go off and if you do see one go off, that is because it went off really low, which we don’t want that. It is a big relief to get it done and not have to worry about it being too dry or the rain or anything like that.”

A GLORIOUS FOURTH

Carswell’s show won’t be the only celebration in Franklin County. The Franklin County Historical Society’s Glorious Fourth event is set for 8 a.m. Friday on the west side of the Old Depot Museum, 135 W. Tecumseh St., Ottawa. The free event, which was at the Old Depot last year and previously at Dietrich Cabin in City Park, is expected to feature Susan Geiss, historical society archivist, reading the Declaration of Independence with historical commentary by Blaine Finch, former historical society president, and an oration by Frederick Conboy, Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area executive director.

“In olden days, [Conboy’s oration] was a three-hour speech,” Deb Barker, Franklin County Historical Society director, said. “It is a five-minute one now, but it talks about values and patriotism and, in Fred’s case, it will both touch on Ottawa’s 150th anniversary and the historic nature of which this is a vital part.”

More than 100 years ago, U.S. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan gave an address from a train at the Old Depot Museum, a former train station, the historical society said in a release.

Speakers for the Glorious Fourth event will be staged on the caboose outside of the museum and, in the case of rain, the event, which is expected to last about an hour, will take place under the Depot canopy roof. To be comfortable during the festivities, those planning to attend should bring lawn chairs and hats or parasols, the release said. A breakfast of biscuits and gravy also will be served.

Those in attendance also will have the opportunity to tour the Old Depot Museum for free during the event. On top of that, everyone will receive a 10 percent discount from the museum store good for 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Friday. The museum also will be open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday. Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for students, and free for Franklin County Historical Society members, active military personnel and their families, and preschoolers.

For more info on the event, contact the Franklin County Historical Society at (785) 242-1232 or the Old Depot Museum at (785) 242-1250.

HOLIDAY

CLOSINGS

Many area offices will be closed for observance of the Fourth of July holiday.

All City of Ottawa offices will be closed Friday and will reopen Monday, city officials said. Other area offices to be closed include:

• The Ottawa Library, 105 S. Hickory St., Ottawa, will be closed on Friday, but will reopen from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

• The Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce, 109 E. Second St., Ottawa, will be closed Thursday and Friday and will reopen 8 a.m. Monday.

• The Ottawa Community Recreation Center/Goppert Building, 705 W. 15th St., will be closed on Friday and will reopen 8 a.m. Saturday with normal hours.

• The U.S. Post Office, 401 S. Hickory St., Ottawa, will be closed Friday and will reopen Saturday with normal hours.

Publication days for The Ottawa Herald will remain as scheduled, but the office, 104 S. Cedar St., Ottawa, will be closed Friday and reopen 8 a.m. Monday with normal hours.

Amid the festivities this holiday weekend, Richard Nienstedt, city manager and former sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, said it is important to keep in mind the true meaning and significance of the Fourth of July.

“It is not only important to our community, but to our nation to recognize that this is the day we declared our independence and that we decided we were not going to live under tyranny of somebody’s rule,” Nienstedt said. “It is not just about the fireworks, it is not just about the barbecued chicken. It is a time for us to celebrate and spend time with our families. It is about the freedoms that we enjoy.”

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