Originally published in PGI Bulletin #214 - November 2019

The Northeast Ohio Pyrotechnics Group (NEOPG) was started in the spring of 2011 by a group of 7 fireworks enthusiasts. The club was started to show others how to handle and shoot fireworks safely and legally – especially in a challenging fireworks state like Ohio. The first official meeting was held at a TGI Friday’s in Fairlawn, OH where the officer positions and foundation of the club were established. NEOPG owes a lot to Ohio Pyrotechnics Arts Guild (OPAG) and Northern Lights Pyrotechnic Club (NLPC) which helped set up the groundwork and were valuable resources for developing the structure and operation of the club.

The early days of the club were slow and we only had a couple shoots the first year but would try to get together at least once a month to spend time together and strengthen the bond between club members. We used to host demos so we could all see the newest and best product available. Backyard shows were the main venue in the beginning, but as word of mouth spread, more shoots were booked – including festivals. All shows were hand-fired at first, and then we started using homemade firing systems. It then progressed to Dewey Firing Systems and then Cobra Firing Systems.

In the early 2010s, some of the club members participated in the Great Lakes Area Spring Shoot (G.L.A.S.S) and had the opportunity to learn from and work alongside pyrotechnicians from all over the United States. It was also an opportunity to forge relationships within the club and get exposure to help the club continue to grow. In 2012, a handful of members worked with OPAG at Pyrotechnics Guild International (PGI) convention in La Porte, Indiana to setup and co-sponsor a display. Starting around 2014 some members participated in the Mid-Atlantic Fireworks Festival (M.A.F.F) and had a big showing of members in 2016 when the club put on one of the main displays at M.A.F.F.

Pyro Universe was a great tool for building membership in the first couple of years. OPAG and NLPC also sent people to the club that were from the northeast Ohio area to help grow the membership. NEOPG and OPAG began a full partnership around 2012 to better support one another and give more support between the two clubs. It also gave club members more opportunities to participate in shoots all across Ohio and other surrounding states. In 2019 the two clubs legally merged to reduce operating expenses for both clubs.

Membership continued to grow to about 15 members in 2013 and about 25 in 2015. Over the winter months, members spent time together annually to build racks and work on equipment for the coming season. With each year, we were able to build club funds to purchase a dedicated firing system and equipment as opposed to using club member supplies. We have also built incredible partnerships with notable wholesalers over the years – American Fireworks and Wolverine Fireworks. They have provided multiple members with show opportunities we would have never experienced otherwise.

The club continues to focus on safety and training by working with the State Fire Inspectors and local AHJ’s to developing safety training and policies. The club is currently working on a training outline to use for training new members to set an example of professionalism throughout its membership. Although the club has been through many changes, we continue to grow and share our love of fireworks with as many people as possible. In 2019 the club has grown to over 50 paid members with many of those members bringing their family members to participate. At the NEOPG Pyro Challenge, our Club sponsored fall shoot, we had 30 pyrotechnicians on the field this year. 2019 has been our most active year – with over 30 private and public shoots.

Rack building party. Photo credit unknown.

Wooster, OH crew during 4th of July. Photo credit unknown.

Shooters table during a large private show. Photo credit Michael Randall.

David Martin Memorial Pyromusical. Photo credit Michael Randall.

Brian Whitlach (NEOPG) working with Brian Knoles (OPAG) during the 2012 PGI convention in La Porte, Indiana. Photo credit Michael Randall.

Dane Crncic, John Severn, and Brian Whitlach during the 2012 PGI convention in La Porte, Indiana. Photo credit Michael Randall.