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Dr Pepper a fireworks fixture in McMinnville
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Dr Pepper Bottling Company is in its 26th year of offering a free fireworks display. However, the annual event did not begin as a way to celebrate Independence Day.
The event that ends the city’s Fourth of July celebration began as a way to celebrate a county event.
“We actually offered the fireworks display during Warren County’s sesquicentennial celebration,” said Doug Milner, owner/ general manager of Dr Pepper Bottling Company. “It wasn’t on July 4. It was in July or August, if I remember right. They had a Virginia French Ball. We offered the fireworks display for that.”
Milner says the county kept the celebration going through the next year so another fireworks display was offered the following year. Two years, and a request from a friend, was enough to keep the tradition going, according to Milner.
The event was moved to the Fourth of July. It is now presented by Dr Pepper and sponsored by the city of McMinnville. Dr Pepper meets all the state and local regulations, as well as supplies the fireworks and a company licensed to ignite them. The city approves the event and supplies security and traffic control.
What most sit back and enjoy without much thought actually takes time, effort and money to present.
“We have to meet state regulations,” said Milner. “We have to send all the information — who, what, when, where and why — to the state. Then, it has to meet local requirements.”
Among the information that has to be submitted is who is presenting the fireworks, what company will be igniting them, when and where it will be held, how many shells will be shot off, the distance between where it will be held and spectators, a map of the area, and what safety precautions are taken to keep the fireworks away from the public.
“Once we get all the information, it has to be approved by the state, local law enforcement and chief of the fire department,” said Milner. “We also have to have the appropriate insurance that covers Dr Pepper and the city. We contact the company and write them a check when it’s over.”
Dr Pepper hires a licensed company from Kentucky, the same company that’s been used for the past 25 years, to present the fireworks display. That company also purchases the fireworks.
While the procedures seem extensive, the first year was the hard part. After that, it became routine, says Milner.
One thing remains unchanged.
“We are always concerned about safety and emergency personnel getting to someone if it’s needed,” Milner said. “There is a lot of traffic. It has been better since the city started directing traffic around the Civic Center.”
For the last several years, McMinnville Police Department has directed traffic counter-clockwise around the Civic Center beginning at 7 p.m. The change turns what are two-lane streets into one lane which leaves one lane open for emergency vehicles. Normal traffic patterns are allowed to resume after the 9 p.m. show once traffic has left the area.
Stands offering free Dr Pepper will once again be available during the event.
“We hope everyone comes out and enjoys the fireworks,” said Milner.