2021 started and 2020 ended with a bang in Baker.
It may have been about five minutes of fireworks along the shore of Baker Lake, but a small group helped set up the celebration with a fundraiser.
Local youth pastor, Joe Epley, set up a fireworks stand along Highway 12 earlier in the day with volunteers and others as an effort to raise money for their youth center.
It may have been a first, having a New Year fireworks show and selling fireworks, but it is something that Joe said he would like to do again, weather permitting.
“We had done fireworks in the summer every year in Baker with a full stand... for about seven, eight or nine years, if not a little longer,” he explained Tuesday.
“We had never done New Year’s fireworks. This year, we just decided that … since the weather was so incredibly mild this winter, we decided to give it a try. There had been community interest before in selling fireworks for New Years Eve. Some people really do love to ring in the holiday that way,” Joe explained.
“It probably isn’t going to happen every year because of the weather, but we can definitely try it when we can,” he said.
The fireworks show by the lake was something new also.
“In conjunction with that (selling fireworks) … we made a show by the lake at midnight. It was softly advertised on social media so that people could take advantage of that.
“Selling was a one-two punch, with lighting off (fireworks) at midnight the other half of that,” he said. “All the proceeds go the Baker Youth Community Center and help us do what we do with students all year – do fun events and sometimes church events.”
The stand was very successful. “The fundraiser was successful. We didn’t have any expectations because we had never done it before. It was good and we had some traction. Several people walked up to the stand and said it was great that we were open. That was cool to see.
“At the show, we had a good turnout. We had some neighbors around the lake that told me that they really enjoyed watching (the fireworks) at their homes. We had people in cars lining the parking lot. There was a mix of ages – some families and some teenagers there,” Joe explained.
“It was a good mix of people. Because we had never done it before, we were happy with whatever happened and we thought the turnout was just fine.”
Ground zero for the fireworks show was near the parking lot and gazebo along the lakeshore, he said.
Joe praised the assistance of Craig Shipman in putting on the fireworks show. “Craig is a local fireworks enthusiast. He helped us rig up the (fireworks) trailer. So the success of the show was squarely on his shoulders. The fact that it went off so well I really attribute to his help.”
According to Joe, the group coordinated with the local police, sheriff and fire departments regard both the sales and the fireworks show. “We made sure we cleared all the channels legally and made sure they were aware of what we were doing. They said as long as the weather was good, they were more than happy to say yes.”
The group felt they had the safety measures in place to have a good show, he added.
Joe said that he and the others behind the event hope to do it again whenever there is mild weather for the holiday.
In addition, he said that the youth center would also like to partner with Shipman during the Fourth of July fireworks show to help that grow. “It is a way to give back and do something fun,” he explained.
At the fireworks stand, it was some of the biggest proving to be the most popular – especially one called ‘Screaming Hawk Artillery’ that was very loud and very pretty. I sold out of them very quickly.”
The stand was only open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on New Years Eve. “The selling window in the state of Montana for fireworks is a little shorter. So, we just opened one day – New Year’s Eve.”
The fireworks show was only about four and a half minutes and started right at midnight, he added.
He has already plans for the future. “If we can go bigger and better, that will be a lot of fun,” Joe added.
Joe said that his ‘wacky waving arm-flailing inflatable Tube Man’ helped bring people into the fireworks stand. He had a crew of about four handling the stand – including T.J. Gilmore, Tieler Soumas, and Ivan Loutzenhiser.