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October 18, 2012

Boomtown Again: Return of fireworks convention to boost local economy

NEW CASTLE — The neighbors are planning on getting a little noisy — and Lawrence County will be at the party.

The Pyrotechnics Guild International announced last night that it will bring its 2013 convention to Cooper’s Lake Campground from Aug. 10-17. The weeklong event will include four nights of spectacular, public fireworks shows, the likes of which haven’t been seen on the East Coast since 1994 — when the guild held its convention at SNPJ near Enon Valley.

Still, the skies won’t be the only things lighting up. Area merchants’ eyes likely will be gleaming as well. Jack Cohen, president of the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau, said last night that the event is expected to have a $5.5 million economic impact on the region.

With Cooper’s Lake just two miles across the Lawrence County line, JoAnn McBride expects a nice chunk of that change to flow back into the New Castle area.

“Right now, we already have several hotels in the area that have rooms booked and set aside for the delegates coming here,” the director of the Lawrence County Tourism Promotion Agency said last night. “Our campgrounds have already had phone calls from people wanting to stay there.

“It’s quite exciting; anything that happens at Cooper’s Lake, a lot of people gravitate to the New Castle Area.”

Debbie Yeager, co-owner of Rose Point Park Campground — which is about five minutes from Cooper’s Lake — said her facility already is reaping benefits from the convention announcement.

“All 10 of our cabins are booked, and several campsites,” she said. “And they’re booked for a 10-day span, so it’s not just coming for the weekend; they’re here for the entire event.

“Remember when it was at SNPJ? We were busy then. We had nine days of solid occupancy then — people from all over the country. They stayed in travel trailers; we only had three cabins at the time. So if it was big for us when it was clear on the other side of the county, I know it’s going to be huge now.”

The Pyrotechnics Guild International was founded in 1969 as an independent worldwide nonprofit organization of amateur and professional fireworks enthusiasts. The Cooper’s Lake gathering will be its 40th annual convention.

There will be seminars, competition and trade shows for guild members, but for the public, the highlight will be the pyrotechnic displays scheduled for Aug. 11, 13, 14 and 16, beginning at dusk.

“What I remember most about 1994,” McBride said, “ is fireworks like you’ve never seen before — very, very unique, because these are amateurs. They’re the ones that are putting together the fireworks in their basement, so to speak.

“There isn’t a year go by that someone doesn’t call and want to know when they’re coming back.”

That’s not likely to stop after next year’s convention.

“Two-and-a-half hours of fireworks with a music theme,” guild President Dan Creagan said of the public shows, which he expects will be seen by 25,000 people each night. “You’ll see things you’ve never seen before. These people are all showing off in front of other professionals, and they don’t want to look bad.

“Your knees are going to be shaking when you walk away.”

(Email: d_irwin@ncnewsonline.com)

 

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