Fireworks guy does a bang-up job on July 4th

  • Updated: July 1, 2012 - 1:05 PM
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Tim Seekon

There's something that blooms in a kid's brain when he looks up at the fire in the sky, hears the crispy crackle of the crackers, feels the gut-punch of the big last BOOM that closes the show. Wonder and awe, of course, but some kids realize something else: People get paid to do this. Meet Tim Seekon, who was that kid. He owns NightLighter Fireworks Inc. in the southeastern Minnesota town of Hayward. People hand him currency to play with fireworks. So, Tim -- ever think you'd get a job like this?

"When I was 8, 9 years old, I thought fireworks were so neat -- it was something in my blood from then on. Later on I worked for a retail store in Wisconsin, and they did a couple of displays, and thought that's what I want to do." So he does. What's the best part?

"Shooting off the show!" he said, laughing. "It's intense. It's an adrenaline rush. It's legal -- and I make a buck or two."

It's not just a matter of pushing buttons -- big red flower now, yellow sparkly thing next. It's almost like an art form, right? "It truly is. And I'm not really an artsy type of guy. I don't know how to put it into words, but you're born with it or you're not."

What's it? The ability to time the fireworks to, say, Bon Jovi? "No. We don't sync to music. Fireworks make their own sounds, I don't believe music is an important part of the display -- the hummers, the whistles, the bangs, that's what you should be absorbing."

Right! So when you -- hold on, hummers? "It's a tube. They drill a hole through the case, so the tube spins a thousand RPMs and [Tim makes an untranscribable ancient fireworks sound]. It's great when a huge shell opens up with a hundred of those."

A hundred! Is there such a thing as too much fireworks? "We call it stepping on the product, or carpet-bombing the sky." Sounds like the 4th of a boomer's childhood, when everyone had rockets and bombs. Speaking of which, does he miss the days when more percussive pyrotechnics were available?

"Absolutely. The state is stupid. They know the revenue could be theirs, but they let it go to Wisconsin or North Dakota. Go to any lake in central Minnesota on the 4th -- fireworks everywhere. At least they're not out arresting everyone."

After all, a little exploderating can be ... therapeutic. "We constantly work, we're stressed -- we need to let people blow off a little steam."

Maybe he should rent the control board to people who want to send a shell high in the sky; that's cathartic. After all, this is a seasonal business, right?

He said he has another line, and laughs:

"I sell chemicals to make fireworks." Someone has to -- or the 4th wouldn't be the 4th.

jlileks@startribune.com 612-673-7858

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