Commonwealth Journal

July 10, 2013

SomerBlast a success despite rain

Spectators treated to hour-long fireworks show

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

The silver lining to the rainy clouds that floated over Somerset on Saturday was that at least waterparkgoers got more bang for their buck — literally.
The heavy moisture forced the pyrotechnicians at SomerSplash Water Park to alter their plans and set off the annual fireworks show the old-fashioned way, leading to watchers getting more than an hour’s worth of colorful bursts in the   darkened sky.
All in all, the wet weather didn’t dampen too many spirits around Somerset City Hall. Mayor Eddie Girdler said that he was “extremely pleased” with the fireworks show and SomerBlast — the city’s yearly Independence Day celebration — as a whole.
“Everything, despite the weather, turned out mighty fine,” said Girdler. 
“I think we proved to people that we are a water park, whether it’s a large crowd or a small crowd,” he added. “The kids didn’t seem to mind the weather.”
Certainly, numbers were down. SomerBlast, with an all-day itinerary of events for the young and young-at-heart held at the water park on Ky. 2227, saw about a 50 percent drop in SomerSplash attendance, according to Girdler.
However, those who just came by to see the fireworks still did so in high numbers. People were invited to park in the lots of surrounding schools and take a shuttle in to the park area; the lots were full, noted Girdler.
What they saw was longer than the usual 35-40 minute fireworks show. Girdler explained that usually the fireworks are synchronized to go off at certain time to provide maximum viewing effect via a computer program.
“But the manufacturer of the fireworks told us that in this type of weather, where you had standing water, the ground was saturated with moisture, that there could be a possibility of a malfunction in the computer system,” said Girdler. “They did not recommend setting them off that way. ... Computer wire running through water was not the best idea.”
Girdler referenced an incident from San Diego last year where an entire show’s worth of fireworks exploded simultaneously in a matter of seconds thanks to a computer glitch as the kind of thing he was hoping to avoid.
As such, the technicians had to do it all by hand — and that meant a longer fireworks show due to the extra effort.
“As they set off each type, they had to have people load the other sections, set those off, then come back and repeat the process,” said Girdler. “They had to manually load every one by different sizes, then try to do a pattern to synchronize them.
“At least there was an alternative,” he added. “The operators were gracious enough to switch the process to set them off.”
Girdler said he discussed the possibility of contingency plans — specifically, postponing the event to Sunday or Monday — with water park management on Saturday morning, but ultimately, the decision was made to keep it on Saturday, wet weather or no.
“A lot of people object to the fireworks on Sunday because of church,” he said. “The problem you run into is rescheduling bands that had to play because of commitments.
“We had a contingency plan, but it was just the way the Fourth fell,” he added as to why the city kept things as-was. “”It was the best alternative we had. ... You can’t predict the weather.”
Girdler said he’s received a lot of positive comments — some confusion over why the fireworks were long, but plenty of compliments on their beauty, and appreciation for leaving the water park open for people to enjoy, despite all the extra wet stuff coming from the sky.
“We made a decision on whether or not there would be lightning that would be a danger to anyone,” he said. “We determined there to be no lightning so we made the decision (to keep plans the same).
“Kings Island doesn’t just shut down (because of rain); Disney World doesn’t just shut down,” he continued. “(We’ve heard) nothing but praise for the city.”
Next year, however, if it’s all the same, the city is hoping for a distinctly brighter, sunnier, drier day. Even so, the conditions Saturday provided a neat moment where man-made marvels met nature to provide a truly ethereal atmosphere, recalled the mayor.
“We heat the water at the park,” he said. “At the end (of the show), around 10:30 p.m., we had fog or mist coming off the water park rides, and at the same time, the rain was pouring. It was one of the most beautiful sights you could ever see, one of those moments where even though it’s adverse weather, it made a beautiful setting.”