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SHELBYVILLE — John Burrell of Shelbyville puts in countless hours planning Fourth of July firework shows at Lake Shelbyville every summer.

"I literally spend weeks doing it," he said. "I've sold consumer fireworks for 20 years. And I always enjoy when someone comes in and has a goofy smile on their face because of what they're picking out. Since I started doing the firework shows, the goofy smile's been on my face."

Before the first fireworks erupt July 4 at dusk, Burrell and his crew will have spent much of the day setting up shelves, mortars, and wiring. On an electric panel a distance away, a numbered set of switches will control what fireworks launch.

The dangerous side to the job makes it both exciting and daunting.

"For a 3-inch shell, it has an explosion that spreads 210 feet in every direction," Burrell said. "Even if it's electronically triggered, you need to be careful. We're constantly walking through the fire zone doing one job or another."

Burrell and his crew are part of Nostalgia Fireworks, a company based in tiny Osco, Illinois. The Greater Shelbyville Chamber of Commerce, which does the fundraising for Shelbyville's show, contracts Burrell and his company to do the pyrotechnics.

The budget for fireworks has been steady in recent years — this year it's $12,000. But the price of fireworks, especially imported ones from China, have climbed.

"There's far less bang for your buck —  pun intended," said Chamber Director Jody McCormick. "It's getting harder to maintain a decent show."

"In the last three years, imports have taken a 30 percent jump, mostly coming out of China," Burrell said. "We incur more and more expenses and the show gets a little bit smaller because of that. We need more funding to keep the show where it is or increase it."

McCormick said the chamber's working on new fundraising efforts.

"We're looking at alternate ways to try to come up with donations so that this program doesn't go away," she said. "Hopefully we'll be able to do a little bit better with our fundraising."

On Wednesday, fireworks will fly from the point at Dam West Recreational Area. Lilly's Concessions will be serving carnival food and lemon shakeups starting at 4 p.m. Former CEO student Thomas Quick will provide two bounce houses at Dam West from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.

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"We've had bounce houses in the past," McCormick said. "And they went over well with the kids. The kids get bored. People get there early so they can get their parking and their area staked out for the fireworks and then there's not a lot to do other than the concessions. So last year, when they didn't have the bounce houses, the kids were bouncing off the walls."

Battle Creek Band, like in past years, will be playing. Their set will be from 6 to 9 p.m.

Before 9 p.m., McCormick said, the road over the dam will be blocked off to traffic so that spectators can congregate and watch the show from there. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will manage parking and set up a parameter that boaters will have to stay behind for safety purposes.

Jeremy Logan, a park ranger with the Corps, said people can watch the fireworks from the picnic area at the beach but have to be off the sand. When the show's over, traffic will be pushed away from the dam.

"(Lake Shelbyville operations manager) Jon Summers and his crew are doing a phenomenal job," McCormick said. "They've gotten this down to a science. They're always very, very helpful with the chamber in making sure this fireworks show is successful."

Logan wished everybody a safe holiday.

"I want to remind everybody to be safe on the water and wear life jackets," he said. "Watch the drinking and have a safe weekend."

And though prices for fireworks have gone up during a time when the budget's stalled, Burrell said that won't spoil anything and that it'll be a good show.

"People should be very excited," he said.


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