TAWAS CITY – Wolverine Fireworks and the Tawas Area Chamber of Commerce (TACC) will be conducting a test run of a potential new fireworks detonation site, planned for approximately 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24.

Approval is contingent upon action by the Tawas City Council, who were set to meet at press time, and will also be dependent on weather.

According to a press release from TACC, the detonation site of the annual Fourth of July fireworks display was moved a few years ago to a barge in Tawas Bay, between East Tawas and Tawas City.

The barge’s anchor point has been adjusted a few times over the years to allow for the best visibility for both cities, and organizers finally settled on a central location on Lake Huron, directly in front of the former TACC office on US-23.

“Unfortunately, however, technical difficulties observed from this type of detonation have caused us to reconsider use of the barge as a viable mechanism for launch of the fireworks display,” stated TACC Managing Director Penny Payea.

The process requires Wolverine Fireworks to use an electronic system that relies on wi-fi to carry the signal from shore to barge. In recent years, due to the weather, the wi-fi component has proven to be one of the biggest barriers to a successful display, according to chamber representatives.

They note that, in 2019, the pyrotechnician they worked with for many years retired and the next generation was trained. As with many new experiences, the unseasoned pyrotechnician lacked the skill to recognize and react to the issues an electronic detonation can have, resulting in a short and erratic show with an untimely finale, the press release continues.

Wolverine Fireworks and TACC have been working together to find a solution that fits for everyone.  Ultimately, the decision was made to eliminate the barge and find a new location for set-up and detonation of the fireworks on land that would still provide good visibility of the display over Lake Huron.

Several sites were identified, with many eliminated due to the required distances for clearance, depending on the shell size needed to reach the intended display area. Other potential sites were removed because of concerns surrounding sound disturbances or access by first response personnel.

Should everything fall into place, this coming Tuesday Wolverine Fireworks will be testing a potential site owned by Tawas City. The 120-acre parcel is located near the water tower, off Sixth Street in Tawas City.

TACC Board members will be viewing from strategic locations around Tawas City and East Tawas to determine if this will be a viable choice for future use.

“The safety of everyone is always our first priority.  During the September 24th testing, as with all other past and future displays, the loading and firing site is limited to Wolverine Fireworks personnel and area safety officials,” Payea stated. “Please join us in viewing the display as we test this proposed new location for future fireworks displays in the Tawases.”

According to Tawas City Manager and TACC Board Member Annge Horning, another reason Wolverine Fireworks has asked to try a new location, is to allow for larger mortars and a larger display. 

“They would like to try launching from our compost area. This area can be secured with the gate and would be easy to keep the necessary 800-foot safety zone perimeter,” she stated in her report to council members, ahead of their Monday meeting.

As for the test run, she said TACC plans to have people strategically placed around the community to see if the fireworks are visible from each of the parks, as well as Tawas Point.

Horning said she has been in contact with Tawas City Fire Department Chief Steve Masich about this request. He is okay with the location, and will also make sure there are firefighters at the site for the test launch.

“Included in the packet is an application for a permit that needs to be approved by the City Council for them to move forward with the test run. We are still covered on Wolverine’s liability insurance from the Independence Day show and we have a copy of that Certificate of Liability Insurance on file,” she noted in her report.