A crew from Central Maine Pyrotechnics prepares Monday for the evening fireworks show at West Pitch Park in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — People are in a celebratory mood again — and what better way to observe the July 4 holiday than by launching booming fireworks over Great Falls on Monday night.

For Steve Marson, owner of Central Maine Pyrotechnics, 2021 has been a return to normal and then some.

In 2020, the business, which puts on fireworks displays throughout New England, lost $1.5 million due to canceled shows. Instead of the usual 100 or so shows over Fourth of July weekend, Marson said they did 10 last year.

Kenny McKinney of Central Maine Pyrotechnics moves launch tubes into place Monday afternoon at West Pitch Park in Auburn before groups of them are nailed together for Monday night’s fireworks over Great Falls on the Androscoggin River. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

But, Marson said, 2021 has been quite the turnaround.

“It’s what I would call very intense normalcy,” he said. “People are anxious to get out and have activities and festivals and they want to celebrate with fireworks.”

Central Maine Pyrotechnics, based in Farmingdale, did roughly 300 shows in all of 2019. As of June this year, the company already had 300 contracts across all six New England states.

Nate Lavoie, right, and his crew from Central Maine Pyrotechnics unload racks of launch tubes Monday afternoon onto a trailer that an ATV pulled up to West Pitch Park in Auburn. The fireworks will be shot Monday night over the Great Falls on the Androscoggin River. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

On social media, Marson has shared recent videos of setups in Wiscasset as well as behind-the-scenes drone footage that shows dozens of shipping containers and moving trucks loaded with fireworks.

Marson estimated his company has done the Liberty Fest fireworks in Lewiston-Auburn for the past decade. The budget is $15,000, which Marson said “is a really good-sized show.”

The annual celebration for Lewiston and Auburn was supposed to make its return Saturday but postponed due to rain.

Jacob Tiner nails racks of launch tubes together Monday afternoon at West Pitch Park in Auburn as he and a crew from Central Maine Pyrotechnics prepare for Monday night’s fireworks show. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Fireworks Technician Nate Lavoie, who has been lighting up the skies for the past 11 years, said the weather had already caused some headaches for the Central Maine Pyrotechnics crew heading into the holiday weekend. On Friday, the company’s out-of-state contracts were the biggest problem, he said. They were “getting hammered by storms.” Then the weather was moving toward Maine.

“We’ve got trucks running 24/7 right now. We’re running around the clock and things are changing by the second,” he said.

Lavoie said the company has a “weather station” upstairs at its headquarters so employees can track the latest forecasts. But, he said, all they can do is plan and postpone accordingly.

“You can’t fight mother nature,” he said.

Lavoie was hustling in the bright sunshine Monday as he and his 10-man crew were getting ready to set up shop on the Auburn side of Great Falls for the 30-minute show. He said a person has to perform at least 10 shows to earn a pyrotechnic license. The Lewiston native said he has trained with the best in the business.

Of course, safety comes first in a handle-with-care job that requires workers to take careful and meticulous steps to put on a safe show.

“We are very, very safe in what we do,” Lavoie explained. “My biggest job is safety on the shoot side. I take a lot of pride in it. People always ask me this question: ‘How unsafe is it? As long as you do everything right — I mean things can go wrong — but if they listen to me … I will get you in the right place at the right time and we will all stay safe at the end of the night.”

A crew from Central Maine Pyrotechnics prepares Monday afternoon for the evening fireworks show at West Pitch Park in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Lavoie enjoys the banter and fun before “shoot time,” but after everything is wired and ready to go, the crew puts on their game faces.

“When it comes to shoot time, I am serious,” he added. “My job is not to shoot fireworks. My job is to make sure they stay safe while they shoot. I let them do all the shooting. Every now and then I will shoot a firework off, but you won’t see me touch one tonight. That’s not what I am really here for.”

But Lavoie loves the camaraderie associated with the job and the friends who come out to support his efforts.

“They enjoy it. We have a blast together,” said Lavoie, who is a building contractor and lights up the sky part-time. “There is the fun aspect of it and there is the adrenaline rush that goes with it. It doesn’t seem like work to us. It is like being in a big concert. Once you get done, you are going to listen to crowd roar just like you would at a Kiss concert.

“We enjoy everything that we do, and in the end, you get to shoot off a whole bunch of fireworks. I get paid to blow stuff up for a living. You can’t complain about that,” he said.


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