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A long-time northeast Wyoming fireworks show is moving from Sheridan County to Devils Tower

A legendary Fourth of July fireworks display is relocating to Devils Tower after 35 years at its previous home at the Big Horn Equestrian Center. Bruce Burns is a former state senator and professional pyrotechnician who’s been involved with fireworks for decades. An ownership change left him without a place to showcase his Fourth of July display this year.

“It was as advanced as any show you’d find,” he said. “Last Fourth of July, we had 2,600 cars and had to turn 300 away. As far as I know, it’s the largest gathering of people in Sheridan County for anything.”

That’s until a former colleague from the legislature, also with an affinity for pyrotechnics, read about his lack of a venue.

State Senator Ogden Driskill is no stranger to fireworks either. For the last five years, he’s been putting on a display that’s benefitted the Hulett Fire Department and local EMTs. It’s been a major draw. Fireworks at Devils Tower date back 35 years to when Driskill’s mother helped start the tradition. Several thousand people have gathered each year to watch the fireworks light up the night sky near the entrance to Devils Tower National Monument. Last year’s festivities raised over $25,000 for the fire department and EMTs.

Burns, who holds an ATF license, has access to higher grade fireworks than the general public can purchase at fireworks stands, though he and Driskill purchase them from the same supplier he explained. But this year’s display will primarily utilize existing ones that Driskill already has. Normally, the Devils Tower fireworks display costs around $10,000 to put on each year. Burns also has technical capabilities that he used with his previous display that he will be using though this year’s show will be smaller than the ones he put on in Big Horn.

“For the last 35 years, they've all been set by hand,” Driskill explained. “We dug mortars in segments of the ground and for the first 20-some years it was myself and friends that did it. And then 10 or so years ago the fire department took over for us the last decade or so and they’ll still be a major [part]. [We’re] doing a big part by remote this year, which we’re excited to see.”

Some of the improvements to this year’s show include having to be less hands on in lighting the fireworks in addition to them being more synchronized. Burns said that while this year’s display won’t be set to music like his shows in Big Horn were, there’s no radio station to provide the music for it.

He said he normally would wait until around 10 p.m. to begin the show but hopes to start it a bit earlier this year.

“I think I want to shoot the show at either 9:15 or 9:30 this year, so that it’s dark enough to see the fireworks, but still light enough to see them against double star,” he said. “I think it’d be a much nicer effect for people to see and [make for] better photos.”

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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