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Friday May 26th, 2017

Fireworks Launch Site Moves Back to Museum Grounds

Biggest Show Ever for the City!

(Alamogordo, New Mexico, May 26, 2017) – Over the past 39 years, the firing site for the City of Alamogordo’s annual fireworks Extravaganza has moved around just a bit. It’s always been in the general vicinity of the New Mexico Museum of Space History, either on the museum campus itself or on the campus of NMSU-A. No matter the location, the view has always been spectacular for the city and for those able to watch from the museum grounds – a privilege reserved for museum members and special guests.

IMAGE: The new firing site for the City of Alamogordo’s annual Fireworks Extravaganza is ready and promises citizens a much better view of the show than in previous years. (Photo courtesy NMMSH)

The new firing site for the City of Alamogordo’s annual Fireworks Extravaganza is ready and promises citizens a much better view of the show than in previous years. (Photo courtesy NMMSH)

The only problem? The size of the shells used for the show was limited to six inches in diameter.

“One of the main reasons we wanted to move the location of the firing site was because we were limited to the size of shells we could use,” said Museum Executive Director Chris Orwoll. “Historically we’ve never been able to fire shells larger than six inches because of the safety zone required. After many trips into the desert surrounding the museum looking for an area that was flat enough, big enough and far enough away, we finally found the perfect spot.”

The new firing site is just south of Highway 2001, the road that goes up the hill to the museum. It easily meets the safety requirements, which specify a one hundred foot safety zone from any public access plus a firing safety zone of 70 feet per inch of shell. This new site will allow for eight inch shells this year, with the potential of ten inch shells in 2018 when the City celebrates 40 years of hosting the show. In addition, line of sight from the city is greatly improved without buildings impeding the view.

“Although it may not sound like a lot, a few inches bigger is a big deal in fireworks. Six inch shells climb to a little over 500 feet in the air with a burst about 200 feet wide. Eight inch shells climb to more than 600 feet before exploding into a 360 foot burst of color,” said Orwoll.

After deciding on an appropriate site, museum staff met with Alamogordo Mayor Richard Boss and laid out the plan for changing the site and increasing the city’s boom for its buck. The City of Alamogordo has funded the fireworks show since 1978, with the museum organizing the event and hosting it. “The idea was pretty exciting and definitely something I thought we should look into, especially with the upcoming 40th anniversary next year,” said Mayor Boss. After the Mayor conferred with city officials, city staff, including the fire chief and assistant fire chief, soon converged upon the museum grounds to get an up-close look at the prospective firing site.

“It was important that the city fire department agreed with our new location too, after all they are the ones who coordinate with the various volunteer fire departments to insure the safety of the public and the surrounding area during the show,” said Orwoll. In addition, the city police department helps coordinate traffic before and after the show, and provides significant emergency support.

With all the partners agreeing on the new location, the next step was dirt work. The site needed to be graded and leveled in order to make it feasible for the fireworks company, PyroShows of Texas. The pyrotechnician and city staff worked together to determine the needs for staging the show and the city volunteered the heavy equipment to complete the job. Today, nearly an acre of museum property, previously unused, has been cleared and leveled.

“This is a win-win for our community’s annual Independence Day celebration. The fireworks show can be seen from all over the city and is the focal point of the day’s celebration. The partnership between the museum and the city in supporting this effort will benefit the community for many Fourth of July’s to come,” said Mayor Boss.

“The City of Alamogordo has always been one of the museum’s strongest allies,” said Orwoll. “After all, the original concept of the International Space Hall of Fame was the brainchild of former Mayor Dwight Ohlinger and just a few years ago the city granted us matching funds to renovate our theater. Now, our partnership continues as we work together to bring our community the largest fireworks show it has ever had.”

The City of Alamogordo’s annual Fireworks Extravaganza will be held on Tuesday, July 4. The museum will host a tailgate party in its parking lots for museum members and special guests. The show will be visible throughout the city and choreographed music will be broadcast on KZZX 105.3 FM. Many local businesses and churches host events in neighboring areas, although this year the parking lots at NMSU-A will be closed to the public.

The New Mexico Museum of Space History, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is a division of the NM Department of Cultural Affairs. For more information, call 575-437-2840 or toll free 1-877-333-6589 or visit the website at Like us at: