Wilkinson family focused on the art of fireworks

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file photo/Mike Wilson Last year's grand fifinale captured by the late Mike Wilson. The Wilkinson's firework display always delights! It uses pyrotechnic burst of fireballs and well-designed choreography for a crowd pleasing display!
file photo/Mike Wilson Last year's grand fifinale captured by the late Mike Wilson. The Wilkinson's firework display always delights! It uses pyrotechnic burst of fireballs and well-designed choreography for a crowd pleasing display!

16-inch firework dedicated in memory of Mike Wilson

submitted by the Wilkinson family

Most families spend the Fourth of July barbecuing, spitting watermelon seeds, and enjoying the day off. But not the Wilkinson family. Setting up Kremmling’s annual firework show is a job that begins early in the morning and lasts until the show begins, though preparation for the show actually starts months earlier with equipment maintenance, choreography, and squibbing (the process of inserting an electronic match into each firework’s fuse). The day before the show, all of the fireworks racks are moved onto
the cliffs and carefully spaced out according to the choreography of the show. The tubes for the ten, twelve, and sixteen inch fireworks have to be buried in the ground in order to withstand the massive impact created by larger fireworks. This year, like many before, West End Rental is donating the use of their bobcat to safely bury the tubes.

On the day of the Fourth, each firework must be meticulously loaded into the correct tube and wired into the correct module. The crews use color coded maps which tell them which firework needs to be placed in each tube. Ken Wilkinson uses an advanced firing system, which allows him to enter the order and timing for each firework ahead of time. During the show, the system reads the choreography he entered and lights each firework with a small electrical pulse at the appropriate time. In the case of a malfunction, the remote can be manually operated to ensure that the show goes on.

Fire in the Sky is truly a family run business. Wilkinson’s daughter, Jill Lewis, is working to receiveher license as a fireworks display operator in order to expand the capabilities of Fire in the Sky. Last year’s show was one of her first working as the lead operator, under the supervision of her father. After the finale of the show, Jill’s now husband dropped to one knee and proposed. Wilkinson’s sons and wife have also been deeply involved in the fireworks since the beginning of Fire in the Sky. His brother, Ron Wilkinson, is also a licensed display operator and usually runs the firework show in Granby when it coincides with the Kremmling fireworks.

This year Wilkinson’s crew consists of his wife Kendra; sons Andrew and Galen; daughter and son-in-law Jill and Kyle Lewis; mother-in-law Carol Hochstrasser; siblings Ron Wilkinson and Greg Thorne; nieces and nephews Caleb and Jonathon Thorne, Katie and Tom Van Groningen, and friends Kelsey Landstrom, Vince Borchert, and Jarrod Manguso.

Each year, Wilkinson and his sons attend the Pyrotechnics Guild International convention where firework enthusiasts from all over the nation gather to share tips and tricks and compete for the best display. This is where Wilkinson learned the art of fireballs which have become
a thrilling signature of his shows. Like so many other community events, the Fourth of July fireworks and their setup were documented
by Mike Wilson, whose skilled photography always captured the hard work of setup and the majesty of the fireworks in the night sky.
Wilkinson remembers talking with Mr. Wilson about the fireballs and his awed, thoughtful reply of “Wow. That is a lot of energy in the air.” Mr. Wilson was a brilliant scientist who shared his knowledge generously with community members and students alike. His photographs captured so many important moments and precious memories as he diligently attended every sporting event, music performance, play, and community event. This year, Fire in the Sky would like to dedicate the show’s sixteen inch firework to Mr. Wilson in honor of his life of service and dedication to the students of West Grand and the people of Kremmling. The sixteen inch will be the very first shot of the show, which will begin at 9:50 p.m.