Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

July 3, 2014

Fireworks company expands its horizons

TAHLEQUAH — Hance Fireworks is having a very busy week.

“We have 35 shows just this week,” said owner Neil Hance.

For more than 30 years, Hance and his company have run local fireworks shows, including the Cherokee Casino and Lake Tenkiller shows to be held July 4.

Those shows average about 1,000 shells, ranging from a 2.5-inch model to a 10-inch version.

“We shoot 10-inch shells at Lake Tenkiller, but we can only shoot 8-inch shells here in town,” said Hance. The show at the Cherokee Casino also is a manual show compared to Lake Tenkiller, which is scripted and much larger.

“It’s always a huge traffic jam,” Hance said of the Lake Tenkiller show.

Tenkiller is Hance Fireworks’ largest event. It has traditionally been the night of July 4, but this year, Cherokee Casino will be that night as well; last year, that one was held on July 3.

Robin Replogle, senior marketing manager at Cherokee Nation Entertainment, said the fireworks show at the casino was changed to better “stay with the spirit of the holiday,” as well as to make the casino a holiday destination, since July 4 is on a Friday this year.

Attendees will be directed to a field east of the casino for the show, though Replogle indicated the parking lot is also a good place to view the display.

“We will have entertainment that will begin at 7 p.m., so folks will be able to enjoy live music and the opportunity to game inside while waiting for fireworks,” said Replogle.

The Cherokee show allows attendees to be closer to the show and has the feel of a scripted show because the music played over the PA system, according to Hance.

“With that many fireworks, it’s almost certain you’ll hit the beat at least part of the time,” said Hance.

Hance’s favorite shows are those scripted to music, though they take much more time to set up and are very expensive because of the price of the electronic control boxes.

That’s why Hance only has five computer control boxes.

Using these boxes and computer software, he can plan an entire show from his computer, as he demonstrated with a show set to Fall Out Boy’s “Light ’em Up,” which will also be the final song of the Cherokee Casino fireworks show.

Yukon, just west of Oklahoma City, is one town hosting a scripted show on July 4. That event is set to a recording of the city’s orchestra.

In the off-season, Hance teaches others how to use the computerized control boxes and other techniques at his shooter school, the first one licensed in the state of Oklahoma. Hance was also one of the advisers when the state introduced the legislation to create the schools

 Hance Fireworks began 38 years ago as a single firework stand, and now does wholesale fireworks as well as commercial displays.

“We have crews scattered across the state,” said Hance.

The company has 10 crews of about three to six people working “back to back” firework shows.

The building holding the display fireworks had been full from floor to rafter at the beginning of the season. Only one stack of boxes still reached just under the rafters of the building this week, as crews organized and loaded the last of the shells to send around Oklahoma and parts of western Arkansas.

“This will be completely empty by the end of the weekend,” said Hance.

Racks to hold and shoot the firework shells are also being sent out, though many of them are already near show sites, either in storage facilities or at the fire stations.

Hance said many small-town fire departments offer to store racks for him.

“Some fire departments put on their own racks and we just supply the shells,” said Hance.

After this weekend, Hance Fireworks will have one more show in Tahlequah at the Cherokee Casino on Labor Day before officially entering into the off-season, which is mostly dedicated to the shooter school and a few weddings.

“As long as the shells stay dry, they’ll stay good,” said Hance. “We’ll be shooting year-round.”


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