A colorful sky provided entertainment for many on Saturday evening, but it was a rude awakening for others.
The annual fireworks show after an Elks game at Vince Genna Stadium in Bend drew many out of their beds, including Rick Christen.
“It sounded like gunshots,” he said. “I also heard this high-pitched sound like fireworks and I thought, that’s probably fireworks. But I didn’t hear any sirens or anything. So I thought maybe this is an illegal fireworks display.”
Many people took to various social media platforms like Facebook, Reddit, and Nextdoor to make their displeasure about the fireworks known.
“Fireworks are great, sure. But not at midnight,” Julie Jones commented on the Bend Elks Facebook Page. “My family lives about 150, 200 feet from the stadium and my special needs child woke up screaming and just absolutely terrified. We almost called 911 because the first few blasts sounded like gunshots right outside our window.”
“It was a great game, but the fireworks should have been postponed. So many of your neighbors did not enjoy being woken up to that at almost midnight. People with pets and veteran with PTSD are not prepared for a midnight fireworks show,” said commenter Shannon Flowerday.
The show was unusual for many reasons. Normally, the yearly display happens around July 4 as a celebration, but the league schedule had the team out of town during that time this year.
“We tried to find another day that would work that didn’t have any major conflicts both with our schedule and other events going on around town,” said Kelsie Hirko, the Marketing and Sales Manager for the Bend Elks. “It kind of landed on July 30 for this year’s date.”
Also abnormal was the time the fireworks were set off. The display began at 11:38 p.m. and ran for 11 minutes.
“Our game was a scheduled start of 7 p.m., we normally start our games at 6:30 but we pushed it back due to the heat,” Hirko explained. “Baseball games typically last three hours, but unfortunately that night’s game just happened to go almost four and a half hours, so an hour and a half longer than expected. Our rules that we have to follow by our league standards which are NCAA rules is that we can’t pause a game in the middle of it to do a promotion or anything of that sort. So we weren’t able to just move it or make it earlier for the fireworks show unfortunately.”
Despite the fireworks ban issued by the City of Bend, the public fireworks display was held legally.
“The Bend Elks obtained a permit through the State Fire Marshal’s office for a public display show, just like they would do for Fourth of July for the butte,” said Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki. “That permit goes through the State Fire Marshal’s Office and gets signed off by the Bend Fire Department and Bend Police. We review it from the safety aspect of what kind of fireworks, how big they are, where they’re going to have it, and all the safety precautions the company will have in place.”
The company that set off the fireworks, Sure Shot Fireworks, is the same company that puts on the Fourth of July show on the butte and had put on the Elks show for many years prior.
Derlacki said the required safety personnel was on site to handle any mishaps that could have occurred.
“They do have staff on hand that are trained in firefighting,” he said. “They do have firefighting equipment, extinguishers. They’re all in protective gear. It’s more than just the one person lighting the show off. Usually it takes eight or 10 of the fireworks company staff to do that show safely.”
He said the fire department received three calls and one email complaining about the fireworks. The police department received one call.
Hirko said they had asked authorities about whether it was still safe to put on the show in the middle of an extremely hot, dry week with temperatures in the hundreds.
“Both the Fire Marshal and the firework company felt that it would be safe to do so,” she said. “Where the fireworks happen on the field is a fully irrigated area that has water ready to go in case there was a fire or any sort of accident happened. And the grass that it’s being shot off on is green and full of life, we water it very often, so it’s not something that would easily spark a fire, so the Fire Marshal felt it was something that was still safe to do even with the heat.”
Elks staff distributed flyers to the 250 homes closest to the stadium, and had TV, radio and social media advertising for the event to make sure folks knew about it.
Still, some were taken off guard.
“We very much understand everyone’s concerns about it and we truly did not plan or intend for a fireworks show to go that late,” Hirko said. “So we were very apologetic that it went that late. It was kind of one of those situations where we never expected that problem to occur so we didn’t plan for it, so now we will be planning in the future for it.”
She said they are already working on making a plan to prevent something like that from happening in the future.
Christen said as a former firefighter, he personally understood that the stadium was a safe place to hold the fireworks show.
“If it was out in the forest, totally different. But since it’s inside city limits, I don’t personally have any qualms about it,” he said.