The history of the Bay City Fireworks Festival - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

The history of the Bay City Fireworks Festival

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BAY CITY (WJRT) -

(07/03/12) - The Fourth of July is right around and the corner, and with it comes magical light shows across Mid-Michigan.

One that has been entertaining crowds for five decades is the Bay City Fireworks Festival.

Tuesday afternoon, we took a look back at its history, and a look ahead to its future.

The thunderous booms, the bright lights, and the oohs and aahs - they are the sights and sounds of summer in Bay City.

"I would have never dreamed that could be possible to happen, here in Bay City, that people throughout the state and out of the state would come here every year to watch the fireworks festival," said former fireworks organizer Terry Watson.

Since 1962, when a small group of Fraternal Order of Police members called "The Men in Blue" shot off the very first fireworks, the Bay City show has exploded into one of Michigan's premier light shows.

"It's a feeling that's indescribable. At time it leaves me speechless," Watson said.

Even after stepping down in 2004, the passion for fireworks burns hot in Watson. He was nicknamed Mr. Fireworks and spent more than 30 years growing the fireworks festival.

"When I first got involved in the fireworks my first year, I'm guessing maybe 20,000 people lined up," he said. "Then it grew, and grew. By the bicentennial in 1976, my goal was to raise $6,000."

To raise money for the show, Watson risked his life for about three decades.

He had the highest of the highs, from sitting on top of a flag pole for days in the rain, to the lowest lows, living in a concrete pipe for days.

"One year I stayed out in the river, an ice shanty, and it dropped to 20 below zero that night. That was my worst one. It was a serious close call that I had," Watson said.

But he did it all for Bay City community, raising about a half million dollars for the festival over three decades.

"I have aches and pains from some of the stunts," he said.

"Terry was Mr. Bay City Fireworks for many, many years. Following in his footsteps, I've had some big shoes to fill," said Doug Clark of the Bay City Fireworks Committee.

Clark left the stunts up to Terry, but he still carries on the dedication of bringing the best fireworks in the country to Mid-Michigan.

"It is truly a year around job," Clark said. "My biggest concern with the fireworks company every year, is I tell them it has to be better than it was last year. We want to make sure the crowds are ooing an ahhing throughout the show."

And this year will be extra special; 50,000 shots will be fired across the Saginaw River in 50 minutes.

It'll be a time not only for families to celebrate Lady Liberty, but the 50 years Bay City has spent honoring her birthday.

"The community of bay city, and really Mid-Michigan does not let us fail, year in and year out. I can't see anybody ever wanting to see this go away," Clark said.

You can watch this year's 50th anniversary of the Bay City Fireworks Festival this Saturday evening.

ABC12 will have cameras all along the Saginaw River, bringing every angle of the Golden Anniversary.

Our coverage starts at 9:30 p.m.

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