(Editor’s Note: Not to take anything away from the terrific fireworks spectacle that the community and visitors were treated to during this year's July 4th celebration in Florence, but we received several calls, emails and Facebook messages asking about the time Florence’s fireworks finale came early. What follows is the original story that was published exactly 41 years ago today in the July 7, 1977, edition of the Siuslaw News.)
Florence Does It In A Big Way
Display has early finale
Florence’s version of a fireworks display is definitely unique. Instead of the “bombs bursting in air” the majority of the fireworks for the July 3 display were exploded on the ground in a momentary barrage, bringing the 15-minute Independence Day celebration to an unanticipated grand finale. The display, sponsored by the Florence Booster Club, was proceeding smoothly at its site in the sand dunes, south of the Siuslaw River and west of the bridge, just after dusk Sunday night.
Then, according to Ron Shelton, one of the five fireworks attendants on the scene, one of the shots drifted back over the site and a burning ember landed in a case of 3-inch mortars. One of the rounds exploded and, Shelton said, “The guys on the end went up over the lip of the dune to the river, and we ran to the west as things started getting hot.”
Ron termed the event “exciting.”
Fortunately, the 24 sticks of dynamite had been detonated earlier to alert spectators that the show was beginning to start.
According to Morrie Robertson, Booster President, the only casualty was the burned brim of an attendant’s hat. But to observers on the north side of the river, the fiery spectacle dimmed the cheerful celebration.
Words of concern for the safety of the men rang up and down Bay Street, which had earlier been the scene of a potluck social around the gazebo in the new mini park.
And the sound and site of the Western Lane Hospital ambulance racing over the bridge seemed to confirm the worst.
Some people dashed to their vehicles and tuned in to channel nine on CB radios and were relieved to hear members of Oregon Coast REACT reporting no casualties at the scene.
A short while later, Don Hicks announced to a large crowd at Don’s Beachcomber that the men were not injured as cheers went up.
The festivities quickly renewed.
Besides Shelton, the other men who set off fireworks were Joe Tuttle, Richard Bales, and Don and Bill Lindberg who had handled fireworks at Dunes City for about 10 years.
Robinson said that the Boosters are ready and willing to sponsor the event again next year.
Preferably without the early finale...