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Getting a charge from it: Lange to conduct July 4 fireworks show

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Kendon Lange of Morris shows the ignition board used in discharging fireworks. Lange conducts the July 4 fireworks show in Hancock. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times2 / 3
A control box with switches used to ignite fireworks. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times3 / 3

Kendon Lange has watched Hancock July 4 fireworks show many times but he's not sitting in the stands.

Lange is sitting in a lawn chair holding a control box. He's the guy who ignites the fireworks.

Before Lange can flip a switch that ignites a wire that looks like an electric match, he and his crew spend hours setting up the show. The firework shells are placed in tubes for that night's show.

"I have most of the tubes on the trailer by 10 in morning. The product comes about noon. I set up during most of the afternoon," Lange said. "I have one shell in each tube. I have hundreds of tubes. That's why it takes me so long."

Lange, of Morris, is licensed and trained to conduct a fireworks show. He works for Premier Fireworks of Missouri.

Lange doesn't work alone but he is fussy about who he works with.

"I'm a sticker on that. It has to be somebody you trust with your life," Lange said. "I like to find somebody young and enthusiastic about doing this."

Setting up items that are destined to ignite is precise work, he said. And he and his crew need to be cautious and methodical. It's not a job where they can stop in the middle and pick it up later, Lange said.

The Hancock show lasts 20 to 25 minutes. Lots of things light up, pop and bang during the show.

The show includes fireworks shells of three, four and five inches. For every inch of a shell the crowd needs to be 70 feet away. A five-inch shell means the crowd must sit 350 feet from the firework.

The fireworks salesman picks out the fireworks for the Hancock show based on the festival's budget.

Lange arranges the order in which the fireworks will be ignited.

He uses a module box with 45 ignitions. Each ignition can ignite 10 fireworks. He can use up to eight module boxes. The size of the show dictates how many boxes he uses. The module boxes contain the ignition switches which are attached to the electric match which are attached to the firework shell.

Shows are a mix of frontage fireworks and aerial fireworks. Frontage fireworks are nearer to the ground, or in front while aerial fireworks explode higher in the air.

"The frontage stuff can shoot up to 200 feet (in the air)," Lange said.

Aerial fireworks are shot higher and can explode at 300 to 400 to 500 feet in the air.

"It's easier to set up for a frontage show," Lange said. But as to what kind of show he likes best, "I have no real preference," Lange said.

Shells included in shows are fireworks called purple dahlia, waterfalls, falling leaves and others. The fireworks resemble their names. Some have two patterns, others burst and bang.

"Some represent flowers, some are similar to a palm tree," Lange said. "Titanium salutes...are more noise than color."

"There is really no perfect show," Lange said. "It's whatever people want to have."

Lange has conducted shows in several states throughout the summer including the fireworks show in Cyrus Days.

"It takes a awhile to learn what each (firework) is," Lange said.

Another thing he learned was where to sit to conduct the show. He sits farther away now than when he first started. "The simple reason is I have hearing loss from being too close because I didn't respect it," Lange said.

Although he must be cautious when working with fireworks the actual explosions aren't as dangerous as those that don't explode.

"The worst thing that happens to me is when a shell shoots in the air and doesn't explode," Lange said. "It's still a live shell. You have to go out in the dark and find this black ball the size of a baseball and properly dispose of it because it didn't blow up in the sky."

"It's one thing to watch out for," Lange said.

While he must search for any shells that didn't explode, Lange and his crew must also clean-up after every show.

It takes work, yet Lange said he enjoys it. He likes the show and enjoys the applause and the honks of vehicle horns in appreciation of a good show.

"Everyone likes fireworks," Lange said. If so, they should say thanks to organizations and fire departments that may sponsor and conduct to shows and donate to area shows, he said.

Lange promised a good show for July 4 in Hancock. He will be watching it from his regular spot in a field near the baseball diamond in Hancock

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