Fireworks return in 2014

Security concerns move festival to Cheshire Fairgrounds

Fireworks set off by Atlas Pyrovision Productions rise above the Hatch Shell during Boston’s Independence Day celebration in July 2013.

Fireworks set off by Atlas Pyrovision Productions rise above the Hatch Shell during Boston’s Independence Day celebration in July 2013. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

Atlas Pyro Vision Productions announced that the Jaffrey Festival of Fireworks will return in 2014, albeit with a new name and location. The new Monadnock Festival of Fireworks, to be held at the Cheshire Fairgrounds in Swanzey, will be a carbon copy of the original festival, a 20-year tradition for Jaffrey that was discontinued in 2012 after a bomb threat sent to officials named the festival as a target.

The threatening letter was sent to the Jaffrey Police Department, Chamber of Commerce and the Keene Sentinel, and prompted Police Chief William Oswalt to call in county, state and federal agencies for an investigation. During a brief phone interview with Oswalt on Monday, he said investigators are no closer to finding a suspect.

The Chamber, Atlas and the Silver Ranch Airpark were offering reward money for information, but that also didn’t turn up any leads.

Atlas vice president Matt Shea said that after eight months of planning and an offer by Cheshire Fairgrounds to house the event, they’re bringing it all together for fall 2014.

He said that the Jaffrey Airpark, where the original festival started and was held for 20 years, was too large for their security concerns, and the cost of having additional officers on hand would have made ticket prices too expensive.

“Having an event at a one-day venue was not the way to go,” said Shea. “The venue was just too big for security.”

Atlas received an outpouring of support from clients and community members to bring the festival back — some clients, said Shea, even offered new event locations but at the end of the day they didn’t match because they weren’t located in the Monadnock community, were too small, or were not secure.

The new location at Cheshire Fairgrounds addresses all of the security and price concerns, he said, but presents new challenges for parking, as it will only be able to park 1,400 cars.

The f airground is used to hosting events, Shea said; it’s fenced in, has its own security staff, it’s a smaller venue and tickets will be pre-sold.

He said that while the airfield was impossible to secure since it was open on all sides, the fairgrounds can be easily secured by a small detail in the days leading up to the event and during its setup.

“They’ve been great at accommodating us in the planning stages,” Shea said, of the fairgrounds organizers.

In addition, Shea said that Atlas has already coordinated with Swanzey Police and Fire to prepare.

The Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce was involved with the festival since its inception,and while the new Monadnock Festival of Fireworks will not be held in Jaffrey, the Jaffrey Chamber will still be involved.

“We decided to involve the Chamber because it has always been a Chamber event,” said Shea.

Plus, they’re experts at parking cars, he added.

Even though the event couldn’t be held in Jaffrey and the event location had to be moved, he says keeping it in the area was something they wanted to do.

“We were able to keep it in the Monadnock Region and that was key to us,” Shea said.

Since the venue is smaller, in a new location, and just starting again this year, Shea expects between 12,000 and 14,000 people coming to the show – about half the number of their 20th anniversary show, which drew a record attendance of 32,000 people.

“We know the first year it’ll be something new,” said Shea. “So we’ll be working things out.”

He added that while the new festival will be essentially the same as the traditional celebration, they could be looking to add new activities for participants.

Atlas plans and coordinates the city of Boston’s annual Fourth of July fireworks celebrations; working there and seeing the city’s resilience after the Boston Marathon bombing gave organizers the extra drive to make the Monadnock Festival of Fireworks happen, Shea said,.

“Seeing them come back from what happened has been spiritual motivation,” said Shea. “Twenty years of great fireworks shows doesn’t just evaporate. We’re going to go on and persevere.”

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