Fireworks bring smiles, complaints

Fireworks displays whistled into spacious skies and boomed above tens of thousands of spectators this Fourth of July in Blair County.

While some displays were wholesome family fun that elicited smiles and applause, other explosions were illegal and led to complaints to police.

The legal, professional fireworks were seen at amusement parks including Lakemont Park.

“Everything was perfect,” Lakemont Park manager Bob Larson said.

Larson said he was happy with the crowd that gathered to watch the park’s fireworks. The display was seen from those inside the park and the neighboring Peoples Natural Gas Field where a season-high 8,422 people enjoyed the Altoona Curve winning a ball game against the Erie SeaWolves.

DelGrosso’s Amusement Park Director of Marketing Amy Mearkle said up to 25,000 people gathered in the amusement park lots and lawns – and along the highway, too – to see the park’s fireworks display.

“We feel it was a crowd very similar to the past,” she said. “This was a great night for us. Our theme was a salute to the battle of Gettysburg.”

That battle is being commemorated as this year marks its 150th anniversary. “We got reports that people really liked the show, the Gettysburg reenactors and patriotic music,” she said.

Altoona Police Department Sgt. Brian Freiwald said there were “many” calls from people complaining about loud, illegal fireworks being set off Thursday night in the city. Fireworks are sold in the area, but those are all legal, he said, noting that the city fire marshal checks them.

“But there are people vacationing down South [who] obtain illegal fireworks and bring them back,” he said.

Pennsylvania State law prohibits the use of consumer and display fireworks without a permit.

Freiwald said the illegal fireworks have more gun powder and louder report or “bang” than the legal ones, which are only a shower of sparks, he said. Some fireworks set off in the area of Fe-Fi’s grocery store and Fourth Street may not be an annoyance to only people on the ground.

A STAT Medevac pilot, who said he shouldn’t be named because media calls must go through the Pittsburgh headquarters, said fireworks set off in that area can sometimes cause visibility issues as pilots land their helicopters at UPMC Altoona.

“We’ve had it numerous times over the last few years. It’s more unexpected than anything else,” he said. “The only danger I see is some obstruction of visibility.”

He said the fireworks shot off there aren’t large enough to damage a helicopter. Medevac Chief Pilot Tim Daschbach, based in Pittsburgh, said there have been no reports of fireworks-related issues from any of his 11 bases from Erie to Washington, D.C.