Pyrotechnician sheds light on fireworks display controversy

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 

Vancouver residents can continue to debate whether the Independence Day at Fort Vancouver festivities started in 1962 or 1963, but one man knows the details first hand.

David Kenny was the shows first, or perhaps second, pyrotechnician. He called The Columbian to set the record straight after Wednesday’s story detailing the confusion over the anniversary date.

“The 1962 show, it was done by the Vancouver Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce), and it was at the Clark County Fairgrounds,” Kenny said. “It was an all day celebration.”

John Dodge of Battle Ground ran the fireworks show and taught Kenny how to do it that year.

In 1963, a group that included the Elks Club, Vancouver Optimists Club, American Legion and Vancouver Jaycees formed to put together a bigger show at Fort Vancouver.

“The Vietnam War was going on then,” Kenny said. “And we put that event together to honor the men serving in the conflict. There was a great deal of military involvement in the show for many years.”

In 1962, the Jaycees bought their fireworks from Western Display, the company that runs the fireworks show today. But from 1963 to the late 1970s, the fireworks committee ran the show themselves and bought their fireworks from Zebra Fireworks, he said.

“I know because I was the one that bought them,” Kenny said.

Still, he understands how details can get lost in time, and he said he really enjoys the work that Western Display does, even if it isn’t technically the company’s 50th year running the show.

“They’re doing a great job,” Kenny said.