Grand Lake looks to the future with fireworks program |

Grand Lake looks to the future with fireworks program

This July 2014 file photo shows the aftermath of the faulty shell explosion during Grand Lake's Fourth of July Fireworks show that year. Here a sunken barge can be see just below the surface of the water beneath the black circular mortar tubes.
Courtesy photo / Renea Peterson and Jeff Boh |

The sky was just beginning to spit a wet spring snow as the Grand Lake Board of Trustees met Monday to discuss the future of fireworks projects in town.

The topic has created contention in the picturesque mountain community where the annual fireworks displays are a point of local pride and a major feature of the economy. The issues stem from plans to relocate aspects of the display preparations to a different location on Grand Lake and plans to repair a floating barge used as a launching platform for explosives.

At the beginning of discussions Grand Lake Town Manager Jim White started off by emphatically stating all parties involved in the discussions want the fireworks to continue. “This has been a great tradition for many years,” said White.


In 2016 the Grand Lake looked to address public safety concerns relating to the fireworks. During 2014’s Fourth of July show faulty shells lead to an explosion that resulted in injuries for Explosives operator Chuck Barry and caused one floating barge carrying the fireworks to break apart and sink into the lake.

The mishap could have been fatal for Barry and cut the show from 20 minutes to 12. After the incident B&K Explosives, which oversaw the fireworks shows for 35 years, was no longer contracted and a different contractor was brought on.

That incident prompted a review of safety procedures. A decision was subsequently made to load fireworks onto the barges from the far off East Inlet instead of the L-Dock near the Town beach.


In 2016 the Fourth of July fireworks were delayed an hour after the fireworks barge became swamped in shallow water.

Last year was the first year the fireworks were loaded from the East Inlet instead of the L-Dock. After the barge became swamped Grand Lake Fire crews freed it using the Department’s fireboat.

After the topic was introduced by Town Manager White Monday night various stakeholders addressed the Board. Fireworks Committee members Doris Braun and Kristeen Burkhardt addressed the board first. Braun began her comments by saying the Fireworks Committee is for utilizing the East Inlet to load the fireworks.


Bruan and Burkhardt outlined requests the Fireworks Committee had for the town. Among the list of items was funds from the town to help renovate the fireworks barge and a guarantee the dock system being built at the East Inlet will extend far enough out to accommodate the loading of barges.

The Committee also requested the town provide a boat to tow the barge from the loading dock to the staging area in the lake and back to the dock after the show.


As discussion continued debate circled around Town contributions to the barge project. The Board was presented with different surfacing options, wood and steel, with different price tags, $10,000 and $15,000 respectively. The price of repairing the barge includes more than surfacing material but different materials produce the difference in cost. The wood surfaced option would required repair work within a few years. The steel option would have a lifespan of many years.

During the meeting Mountain Paddlers owner Andy Murphy spoke. “At the last Board meeting I made a pledge of $1,000 to the building of the steel barge with a challenge to the business community,” said Murphy. Murphy reiterated his challenge, asking the entire business community of the Grand Lake area to donate funds to the project. “My challenge is not that each business match the $1,000 but that the community as a whole covers the other $14,000 so we can do this for many, many years to come,” Murphy said. “If every business gave $100 we could probably reach that goal.”

During the Regular Meeting the Grand Lake Board approved a motion to cover any outstanding costs associated with the barge repair work beyond what is raised by the business community of Grand Lake up to a total of $15,000. The Town will retain ownership of the barge after the repairs are complete. Additionally the Town approved $10,000 for construction of an extended dock at the East Inlet to accommodate the loading and unloading of fireworks onto the barge.

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