The Day The Fireworks Died

Imagine paying to see a professional July 4th fireworks show but, as darkness falls, no fireworks. That happened here in CV in 1992, and here’s the story.

In 1989, the Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce kicked off a yearly Fourth of July community fireworks show held on the athletic field of Crescenta Valley High School. It would be its big fundraiser of the year and fund the activities of the Chamber, plus funding several local organizations such as CV High’s ROTC program, the La Crescenta Library and the local YMCA.

It went off okay for three years, but the quality of the show was declining. In 1992, a pyrotechnician from a Utah-based company approached the Chamber with an offer, so they signed a contract with him. On the 4th of July, 1992 he showed up in the morning and set up the fireworks to go off at 9 p.m. In the afternoon, the pyrotechnician told organizers that he was exhausted and feeling a little sick, so he was going home to rest and would be back later to set off the show.

But in reality, he hit the road and went to Saugus where he had booked a second fireworks show. He got his fireworks set up there for an 11 p.m. show. He figured he could make it back to CV by 9 then return to Saugus at 11, doubling his money for a day’s work. After setting up there, he gave the Saugus show organizers the same story – he was going home to rest.

However, things fell apart for the double-dealing pyrotechnician when a Saugus fire inspector refused to let him leave, citing safety concerns over leaving the fireworks unattended. The pyrotechnician was forced to call in sick to the CV organizers telling them he had food poisoning and was too sick to set off the show.

Imagine the panic the CV show organizers must have felt at that moment! Even worse, someone had to face the crowd and tell them there would be no show that night! The crowd actually took it fairly well – no torches and pitchforks. The attendees, 5,000 strong, were offered a refund, either at the ticket booth (which soon ran out of cash) or at the chamber office later in the week. It was a disaster!

The Chamber had lost a whopping $25,000 on the event. It was now flat broke. Fortunately, a couple of community angels stepped up and funded the Chamber with their own money, so the Chamber survived. The Chamber had to sue the pyrotechnic company to get a refund and, after a couple of years in court, it got back a fraction of the money. The fireworks shows were able to continue only because a local resident who was a professional pyrotechnician volunteered to put on the show for the next few years.

Finally in early 2006, the Chamber regrettably, but understandably, stepped back from doing the annual fireworks show. After the announcement, two community activists, Steve Pierce and Dave Meyers, were lamenting the end of what had become a community tradition. Over pizza at Dominic’s, they were trying to come up with a plan to keep the shows going.

At that same restaurant was Montrose merchant John Drayman who overheard their plans. He approached them and asked how much money was needed to kick off the effort. An estimated $10,000, they replied. Drayman stepped outside, called a (presumably rich) friend, and secured a short-term loan for the full amount. It looked like the 2006 fireworks show would happen after all!

A non-profit was formed – the Crescenta Valley Fireworks Association – and the usual cast of community volunteers stepped forward. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich eagerly pitched in another $5,000. The 2006 fireworks show went off without a hitch and has been going every year since, all run by volunteers.

And so, as you enjoy the 2024 fireworks show, be sure to silently thank the spirit of volunteerism that permeates our community. We live in a great town.

Mike Lawler is the former president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley
and loves local history.
Reach him at