Shedding Light on Ocean Reef
Each New Year’s Eve and July 4th, Members gather on Buccaneer Island, look out over the Atlantic Ocean and enjoy a Fireworks Display that seems to be shot off the dark horizon. Yet, depending on the light from the moon, one might just be able to catch a glimpse of the two small barges that deliver this celebration year after year, actually more years than this team of pyrotechnics can remember.
For the New Year’s Eve shows, the team of five spends the day loading the barges. By 7:45p.m., they are ready to head out the Main Channel to set up for the 8:30p.m. show. They stop just outside the first channel marker where they position themselves to launch the two fantastic displays enjoyed each year.
Asking the team what worries them the most prior to a show, rain and wind tied for the top spot. Rain for the July 4th Show, and wind more typical for this time of year. (They also cautioned against jinxing them with either!) Mike Uffenorde, who has been leading the Ocean Reef show for at least 15 years, said that with rain, they can work through it is just miserable, but wind can be a real challenge. Knowing that Mike, along with Garry Shomers, have been doing this here for nearly two decades, they also offered that technology has not changed the way this team does things, Mike saying, “We are old school, every shot that goes in the air is because we want it to, because we flip a switch.” Maybe that is why the ORC shows are so anticipated each year; the tradition and experience combined with the human element keeps it authentic and exciting.
Mike and Garry are second generation pyrotechs, sharing that both of their fathers “shot.” When asked what made them want to go into the business Shomers returned with a question, “Besides stupidity?” And then chuckled, “it was fun, now it’s work!”
Thanks to this team for spending their holidays working in the darkness for Ocean Reef. Perhaps this year more than ever, their Show brought the light to be carried into the new year.