Pyrotechnics Guild International convention to offer 4 fireworks displays in Butler County
By Bill Vidonic
Published: Sunday, Aug. 4, 2013, 11:18 p.m.
More than 100,000 people could descend on Butler County next week to watch spectacular fireworks displays, and police are working to keep tempers from flaring, too, as motorists navigate two-lane, country roads.
The “2013 Boom & a Blast” Pyrotechnics Guild International convention kicks off Saturday at Cooper's Lake Campground off Interstate 79 in Worth. It will present four huge public fireworks displays, the two largest on Aug. 11 and 16. Convention organizers expect more than 10,000 vehicles each of those days.
Interstate 79 and Route 422 are two main arteries to get people there. However, the Interstate 79 interchange with Route 422 is under construction, which means motorists will detour to smaller roads. Currie Road provides the main access into the campgrounds.
Worth does not have a police department and relies on state police, who worry that traffic may not flow as smoothly as organizers hope.
“We've had a point of contention with these folks,” state police Lt. Eric Hermick, commander of the Butler barracks, said Friday. “If there's a crash on Route 19, or Interstate 79, there's a problem.”
Hermick said troopers will conduct roving patrols on I-79 and Route 422, and PennDOT is supplying signs and cones to block road berms so that people won't pull off along the interstate to watch the fireworks displays starting at 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 11, 13, 14 and 16. All fireworks shows depend on the weather.
Butler Sheriff Mike Slupe and county tourism director Jack Cohen said sheriff's deputies will direct motorists to alternate routes, including routes 19 and 108. Slupe is confident law enforcement officials can handle the extra traffic.
“This is simply, probably, one of the single-most largest events that has come to Butler County,” Slupe said, “and I think that looking at our role and looking at public safety, taking that all into account, this is a no-brainer.”
Local emergency officials, including deputy sheriffs, should keep traffic flowing, said Cohen, the head of Butler County's Tourism & Convention Bureau.
“Everybody says, ‘OK, we got this,' ” Cohen said.
Cohen said the tourism bureau will pick up the costs of two deputies at Cooper's Lake.
Slupe said he'll pay overtime for eight deputies to assist with traffic control on roads outside the campground. He anticipates the cost will be about $10,000, but double that when including benefits.
Several weeks ago, Region 13 Task Force, a regional emergency response group, staged exercises to determine how emergency officials would handle a mass-casualty event at the convention.
Neighboring Lawrence County, through Region 13, is providing a mobile communications trailer to help tie in emergency responder radios.
The cost to the tourism bureau for staging the event, including paying $50,000 to convention organizers PGI and $30,000 for marketing, will be about $100,000, Cohen said.
The tourism bureau put aside money from annual hotel tax collections for several years to pay for the event, Cohen said.
Organizers anticipate the thousands of conventioneers and visitors will pump at least $5 million into the economy.
“It's a small price to pay for these kinds of revenues in our community,” Cohen said.
Bill Vidonic is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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