RIO GRANDE — Rockets over Rio once gain returns to Rio Grande, Oct. 13, with launch at 9:30 p.m., the same weekend as Bob Evans Farm Festival.
According to Rio Grande Mayor Matt Easter, the fireworks display is in its ninth year as a strictly donation-funded event hosted by the Village of Rio Grande. Launch will take place near the Stanley Evans Athletics and Recreation Field on the campus of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College. The event is free and open to the public.
“This year we have some of our biggest shots ever,” said Easter. “There is a 16-inch shell for the grand finale. The biggest we’ve ever done is an eight…We’re hoping a crowd comes out. It’s one last hurrah before the weather goes cold. It brings the crowd out that night to watch a free event and draws attention to our fabulous soccer program in Rio. It brings families out to tailgate and blankets are spread out and people get to know our firemen and see our firetrucks and see what tax dollars go for. Who doesn’t love fireworks? It’s small town USA.”
According to fireworks launching company Legendary Entertainment owner Steve Kaiser, the launch of a 16-inch shell is not frequently done.
“Rio has done an awesome job,” said Kaiser. “We started out nine years ago with a few thousand dollars and a tiny little show. The community has embraced it…Last year, I think we did 64 events. So, when you’re at Rio and you’re able to work with that many people, it’s just awesome and keeps growing. We’ll be shooting a big 16-inch shell. I shot one of the last sixteens in the US a few years ago. We have to have them specially made in the US. There’s just not a lot of places to shoot them with enough (safety) area. They’re not a real typical shell to shoot. They’re expensive and take up a lot of area.”
The shell is anticipated to climb to 2000 feet in the air before detonating in its entirety, said Easter. Crews have to dig a hole in the ground for the launching tube as part of proper protocol and utilized a backhoe.
Over the last nine years, said Easter, the donations of Rockets over Rio has grown from $3,000 in its initial donation year to $12,000 in donations for this year’s launch. The show is timed with music, much of it traditionally rock and roll mixed with other popular genres. However, this year, one might hear Christmas music during the event.
“We usually dedicate the show to someone who has served the community,” said Easter. “This year we’ve dedicated it to two people. One is Mike Polcyn (often remembered as the passed City Park Santa), so that’s why it might be weird when you hear a Christmas song during the show. That’s our thank you to him. We’re also honoring Patty Weatherholt, a 26-year veteran of the Village Council that lost a battle to cancer this year.”
The Rio Grande Fire Department is anticipated to sell snacks and potentially hot chocolate during the event and a lucky ticket drawer will be able to view the fireworks from the top of the department’s ladder truck.
“I’d like to thank all of our donators and sponsors and supporters,” said Easter. “Without them we wouldn’t be able to do this. Rockets over Rio doesn’t just belong to Rio, it belongs to everyone in our area.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.