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Giant shells, displays, & more - PGI's Golden Anniversary

Updated: Aug 20, 2019

Pyros hungry for hands-on opportunities prowl the manufacturing building. "Whomps" go off intermittently in the distance. Cakes and salutes fill the silence between 5pm and 1am. If you're experiencing any of these, you've likely found yourself at the Pyrotechnics Guild International's annual convention.

August 10-16, 2019 marked the PGI's 50th annual "Golden Anniversary" convention, which took place in Gillette, a dry and windy city in northeastern Wyoming located just an hour away from the Devils Tower monument. PGI attendees from all over the nation (and beyond) nearly doubled Gillette's regular population of 31,000 for this one special week dedicated to the manufacturing, artistry, and safe usage of pyrotechnics.

We at Spirit of '76 (the wholesaler behind the '76 Pro Line product line) attended PGI as a vendor and trade show participant.

As a floater tasked with gathering coverage of the event, I was fortunate to experience and document many incredible pyro projects that I could not have seen anywhere else.


On Tuesday the 13th, I and a couple other '76ers lended a hand to Kevin Adams and his wife Jessie, who were setting up Kevin's show submission for the Unlimited Class C Displays that would be shot and judged that evening.

This was the first year Kevin's display placed first in its category - watch the video below for his discussion of the show followed by his full display in 4K beginning at 1:40.


Thursday the 15th saw at least a couple exciting pyro endeavors. I wandered out to the salute line where I had the opportunity to light an 8-pound ground salute (something I never thought I'd have the itch to do, but, when at PGI...)

Out next to the salute line, I caught up with Bill Corbett of Fireball Dudes to snap a photo of his "Supernuke" setup prior to his team dropping the lift charges.

The Supernuke, a celebration of PGI's golden anniversary, was the "largest fireball ever at a fireworks event" with 100 lbs of black powder, 100+ salutes, and 56 steel mortars. The thing was crazy huge. Check it out below.


Friday the 16th, the final day of the convention, arrived and promised an evening filled with the largest displays of the week. My interest was captured, as it is most of the time at PGI, with the work of the All Stars - an exclusive group of hardcore pyros who hand-build shells, the smallest of which being bigger than your head, all week and fire them off in a tastefully music-less display at the end of the convention.

Watch the mesmerizing display, complete with commentary from the All Stars sitting in the bleachers near me, in the video below. (It's 15 min long with little editing - sorry).


Finally, the project with the most buzz around it was by far the 36-inch shell, built on-site by the same All Stars member who invented the WASP machine.

Even before it was in the air, this 360-pound shell was a sight to see. I obviously had to write my name on it in fat Sharpie ink.

This massive shell was placed considerably farther back from the audience for its launch compared to the other All Stars' shells for safety reasons. I will admit, the increased distance did not do my video justice, but it remained an incredible and breathtaking sight to see firsthand.

It was an absolute treasure to be on site for PGI's 50th annual "golden anniversary" convention. To see even more coverage of this event (and sooo many other things in the world of pyro), I encourage you to like and follow '76 Pro Line's and Spirit of '76's Facebook pages.

Until next time, this is Sam with '76, signing off.

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