Dan Skoog speaks on fireworks through the ages

by: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Estacada Fourth of July Parade Grand Marshal Dan Skoog holds up an article about his efforts to save the fireworks show from July 7, 1993.Might as well call him “Mr. Fourth of July.”

Dan Skoog is one of the founding members of Estacada Area Community Events, has personally ensured that the fireworks show happens every year, was instrumental in bringing the Timber Festival back in 2012 (for the first time in nearly 20 years) and was recently named the grand marshal of the Chamber of Commerce’s Fourth of July parade.

“Dan Skoog has been actively involved in growing the Big Bang event to the major attraction it is today,” wrote Chamber of Commerce administrator Connie Redmond. “Year after year he spends countless hours working with a committee of volunteers to put on what is becoming one of the biggest Fourth of July events in the state.”

Before Skoog came to Estacada, he worked as an EMT in the bay area and Oakland, Calif. but it was “a little too depressing.”

He moved to Estacada in 1972 and “went to work in the woods” building logging roads.

“Building a logging road consisted of falling, bucking and logging the timber after which you would clear the stumps and rock in preparation for excavating and grading,” Skoog explained.

He later made a living driving logging trucks and eventually started his own trucking company but it seems Skoog has always liked things that go ‘boom.’

“One of my favorite duties was drilling and shooting stumps and rock with dynamite and fertilizer (Nitro-Carbo-Nitrate).  I would spend an entire day loading and wiring a hillside of stumps or drilling and loading rock for the big blast at the end of the day,” Skoog wrote of his days making logging roads.

No wonder he was recruited to the fireworks crew for the Estacada Family Fourth in the 1980s.

By 1988, Skoog was running the fireworks show.

“You don’t show up for meetings you get put in charge of stuff,” Skoog joked.

Skoog speaks fondly of the fireworks shows in the 1980s.

“It was a simpler time without too much regulation,” he wrote.

He likes to talk about how in the old days the grand finale would include a 12-inch shell, with the audience sitting only 50 to 75 feet away.

“You’d be in Gitmo now if you did that,” Skoog said.

Regulations require many more precautions nowadays.

Today, spectators would have to be at least 1,200 feet away from a 12-inch shell.

Since 1993, the Oregon State Fire Marshal has required every fireworks show to have a licensed pyrotechnician “Aerial Display Operator.” (Skoog was promptly tested and certified.)

Today, pyrotechnicians must be recertified and licensed every three years.

Skoog explained that the process requires background checks and finger-printing.

Pyrotechnicians must also attend a class put on by Western Display Fireworks and the Oregon State fire marshal to be updated on rules, regulations and new products.

As for the fireworks show itself, it requires one million dollars in firework liability insurance and workers compensation insurance.

After the show, reports must be submitted to the Oregon State Fire Marshal and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork,” Skoog wrote.

That hasn’t stopped the show from happening every year.

1993 was one of the toughest years for the Fourth of July celebrations.

It was the last year of the Timber Festival before it was revived in 2012.

Funding was hard to come by and the Family Fourth Celebration was canceled due to lack of volunteers.

Not to be deterred, Skoog and Bill James, then editor of the Clackamas County News, hit the streets in hopes of raising the funds for the show to go on.

Did they? “Oh yeah, we haven’t missed a year,” Skoog said casually.

The fireworks show went on, without any of the other usual events. Skoog said it was “Like the old days: coolers and tailgate parties.”

In 2005, Skoog and others formed the nonprofit Estacada Area Community Events (EACE) organization.

The Chamber of Commerce had been running the Fourth of July festivities since 1994, but had amassed a great deal of debt in the process.

EACE offered to take over the celebrations and agreed to inherit the debt.

The debt was settled after the EACE’s first fundraiser, a golf tournament.

Skoog retired from “executive” duties with the EACE this year but is still a member of the board.

“It’s time for the kids to do it,” he said. “Sean (Drinkwine, President of EACE) has really stepped up and knocked it out of the park. Sean and Mary (Whitney),” Skoog said.

He may be leaving a lot up to the “kids,” but Skoog will still be “bird dogging” the fireworks crew, beer garden and lawn mower show during this year’s celebrations.

Five “kids” — licensed pyrotechnicians — will put on a retro show for Estacada’s Big Bang Fireworks show this year.

Skoog explained there will be “no wires, squibs, igniter cord or computer timing of the firing sequence.”

Pyrotechnicians Rocky Skoog, Nickie Hoffman, Tim Hoffman, Kurt Zieglemeyer and Wayne Lerch will hand-fire the show simultaneously.

They’ve got some new surprise techniques as well.

“This year the firework show is one of the largest in Oregon and we will shoot bigger shells than Fort Vancouver,” Skoog wrote. “The fireworks show will be unique and large, Estacada style.”

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