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Remember the smell of caps when you were growing up? You know, the paper strand that you unrolled and then whacked with a hammer? It made a pop and had a cool smell? Now, multiply that smell by 100 and that sound by 10,000. That is what happens when the fireworks are going off - up close and personal.
Starting Sunday afternoon, Cedar Key Fire Chief Robert Robinson unpacked the fireworks that were delivered earlier in the week and sorted them by size into several metal garbage cans.
Monday morning, after driving fire trucks in the Fourth of July parade, the volunteer fire men, Daniel Carswell, Ken Daniels, Sharon Ingram, James, Jamie and Kenny McCain, plus Jamie’s friend, Frank and Josh Wilson loaded the fireworks, tubes, racks, helmets with face shields, bunker gear, shovels, etc., and transported them to Cemetery Point Park.
On top of that, they moved over the smalltanker truck, a gigantic generator with lights, firefighting equipment, a bull dozer, a backhoe and the gator, too, and “commenced to digging,” according to James McCain.
About eight hours later,they were finished. That included setting up the “trailer” that had all the fireworks for the grand finale. It consisted of 700-800 tubes in racks that were carefully loaded with 700-800 firecrackers, covered with sheets of aluminum foil, a cotton tarp and finally, a blue tarp - to keep them dry until the show.
Foil is needed because the fuses for the entire batch are woven into one continuous fuse. As the first row of mortar tubes goes off, sparks can fly into the adjacent tubes and accidentally set them off before it is time.
Chief Robinson learned that lesson the hard way. Years ago, he lighted the first row, sparks jumped, and the grand finale was over in about 30 seconds. Now, he buys aluminum foil by the case.
Beginning at 9 p.m., the entire show ran 45 minutes and included one reload. It began with a blessing by Rev. Daniel Carswell, “Thanking God for the freedoms he gave us and for keeping everyone safe,” as they set off the fireworks.
Fireworks in Cedar Key have come a long way since the days when people climbed into the trees and set off fireworks.
As far as launching the fireworks from Cemetery Point Park, Robinson said, “It is the best, safest place we’ve ever done, the most convenient spot and the shelter pavilion was a great place to get out of the sun,” during the day.
Robinson also spoke of how “there’s not been one time when we’ve been able to sit and watch the fireworks with family.” So, why do they still do it? “Because nobody else will, for the local people.” He added that a fireworks company would have charged $3,000 to do what he and his men did. However, they did get paid $10, just as they do every time they go out on a call in or around Cedar Key.