Fireworks displays entertain and generate funds


Allan McCord talks about pyrotechnics.

A fundraising idea thought up by Allan McCord 25 years ago is still benefiting people in eastern Southland.

His idea of a fireworks display to raise money has been used by the Gore Main School, Gore High School and Menzies College. McCord was in charge of all their displays and in the past few years, he has been the operator for displays organised by the Wyndham community swimming pool group and Balfour Lions Club.

"It's a good way to fund raise for kids," he says.

Pyrotechnician Allan McCord with the tools of his trade - cylinders and fireworks.
Jamie Searle/Stuff

Pyrotechnician Allan McCord with the tools of his trade - cylinders and fireworks.

The fireworks season is fast approaching and McCord, a licensed pyrotechnician, will again be controlling displays at Wyndham and Balfour. The Balfour Lions Club will hold its display at the town's old race track on November 4, while the pool group is holding a display at the Wyndham racecourse on November 10.

McCord is a certified construction blaster and has handled explosives for most of his life.

His knowledge of explosives and handling of it secured him work in the construction of the Clyde Dam, river protection in Milford Sound and blasting at Macrae's gold mine in Palmerston. 

Fireworks light up the night sky at a music festival at Rugby Park, Invercargill, in 2015.
Robyn Edie/Stuff

Fireworks light up the night sky at a music festival at Rugby Park, Invercargill, in 2015.

His life is a bit quieter these days with employment as a machinery operator on three farms at Te Tipua.  

Handling explosives is "all about safety and common sense," he says.

McCord doesn't charge to operate fireworks displays – seeing children and their families enjoying the spectacle brings a smile to his face. 

Children, from left, Emma Merchant, Jack Merchant, Liam Eaton and Riley Eaton on the back of the vintage fire engine ...

Children, from left, Emma Merchant, Jack Merchant, Liam Eaton and Riley Eaton on the back of the vintage fire engine dubbed Little Flick, with firefighters James Merchant, left, and Brent Eaton at the Balfour fireworks display in 2016.

"You hear the kids yelling and parents clapping."

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Their appreciation confirms the shows are working to plan.

McCord doesn't have a favourite firework – "they're all the same to me. I don't get to see them [ignite in the sky] properly because I'm right underneath them.

"You've got to be 50 metres or further away to see it properly."

The Mataura Licensing Trust provided financial assistance to the schools and pool group to buy fireworks from a Christchurch importing business. Admission money went to the schools, pool group and Lions Club. 

Some of the pool's operating costs are met by money raised at the displays.

McCord became involved in pyrotechnics when his three stepchildren – Shannon, Cory and Scott Robinson – were at Gore Main School in the 1990s. During a discussion about ways to fund raise for the school, he suggested a fireworks display.

After passing pyrotechnics exams in 1992, McCord, with help from teachers and parents, staged a fireworks display at a Fulton Hogan yard in Gore in 1993.

He did yearly displays before the school stopped holding them in 2000. Gore High School picked up the fundraising idea, with McCord at the helm. 

The high school held its last display in 2012. 

Menzies College staged a display at the Wyndham racecourse in 2013 to raise money for its touring netball and rugby teams. For the past two years, the pool group has run displays at the racecourse.

Judy Gould helped organise displays for all three schools. She worked in the office of the Gore schools and is now executive officer at Menzies College in Wyndham. Teacher and pool group member Alice Cade is again display co-ordinator at Wyndham this year.

"It's a family event ... they put down their picnic blankets on the lawn at the racecourse," Gould says.

Knowing the displays were worthwhile for Gore Main School, Gould suggested the fundraiser to senior staff at Gore High School. They gave it the thumbs up and held displays at the Gore A&P. Showgrounds.  

"When they stopped holding it, I dragged the idea here [Menzies College]," Gould says.

"It was something we could do."

Second vice-president of the Balfour Lions Club Olivia Ross says the annual fireworks display in the northern Southland town is always well-supported by people in the district. The Balfour Fire Brigade's vintage fire engine dubbed Little Flick is popular at the event. 

"There's always a line [of children] for miles, all night, wanting a ride on Little Flick," Ross says.

The Balfour and Wyndham fireworks displays will last for 20 to 30 minutes, McCord says.

The fireworks are usually transported from Christchurch to McCord in dangerous goods trucks a fortnight out from events. McCord has a dangerous goods licence to cart the fireworks to events.

"A warehouse in Christchurch supplies most of New Zealand [with fireworks] ... they get it from China," McCord says.

He is assisted at displays by his nephew, David McCord, and Brigg Henderson. Like McCord, they are not paid.

The trio wear earmuffs and non flammable clothing and have four or five fire extinguishers on stand by. A fire engine and crew and St John personnel are at venues. 

As well as gaining a fireworks display permit, approval is needed from Fire and Emergency NZ and Occupational Safety and Health.





 - Stuff

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