Providing annual fireworks show a blast for rural Lawrence man

Rural Lawrence resident G.R. Gordon-Ross and his buddies have a saying they trot out each year before they begin their fireworks show for family and friends.

“We tell them that if nobody showed up we would still do the same thing because we like blowing stuff up,” Gordon-Ross said.

There seems to be little worry about no one showing up. Gordon-Ross’ private show attracted 400 people to the city-owned Youth Sports Complex on Friday night, and created a healthy heaping of curiosity from West Lawrence residents who saw the 20-minute show from miles around.

Gordon-Ross said it was the ninth year he and three other area residents have put on a large show for their family and friends. But this is the first year the group went through the process to get a permit to have the show at the Youth Sports Complex. Previously, the show was shot from Gordon-Ross’ home just south of Lawrence near Wells Overlook.

“But I started getting concerned about having 5,000 people or some number like that show up at my house some day,” Gordon-Ross said.

Gordon-Ross said Parks and Recreation leaders were open to allowing the show to occur at the Youth Sports Complex after learning he and his friends are licensed to shoot commercial-grade fireworks.

But don’t be confused, the group doesn’t do fireworks shows for a living. Gordon-Ross is an information technology specialist in the health care field, and his three partners wish to remain anonymous. He said he received his commercial license because he wanted to provide a high-quality show for his family and friends.

“I’ve probably been putting on shows for my family since I was about 10 years old,” Gordon-Ross said.

A Lawrence ordinance bans the use of most fireworks inside the city limits, but permits are available for those who have a commercial license, can show proper proof of insurance and meet several site requirements, said Jim King, Lawrence fire marshal.

Friday’s show included a variety of large fireworks that commonly are seen at community celebrations, including three-inch, four-inch and six-inch shells. It also included a whole bunch of root beer floats. About 250 floats were provided to audience members, and about 400 sparklers were given to children in the crowd.

Gordon-Ross said technically the show is a private event, but group members really don’t do much to limit attendance.

“It started out as family and friends, and then it became friends of friends and friends of friends of friends and on down the line,” Gordon-Ross said. “It just grows by word-of-mouth.”

The organizers charge no admission to the show. Gordon-Ross didn’t provide an estimate on how much they spend for the event, but noted Hy-Vee does help the group with low cost supplies for the root beer floats.

“It’s not cheap though,” Gordon-Ross said of running the event.

But he has a saying when the subject of the show’s expenses come up too.

“I tell people that my family budget doesn’t have a line item for Christmas but it sure does for the Fourth of July,” he said.