An earth shaking boom that echoed through the streets of Hawthorne and a brilliant flash of light weren’t enough to distract Kaia Mitchell from talking to her grandpa. As flecks of purple light drifted down from the sky, the preschooler turned around in her chair, she caught a glimp of the explosive as the light twinkled out.
“Did I miss a firework?” Kaia asked.
“Ya, you did,” replied Gary Mitchell, Kaia’s grandpa.
Kaia’s brother, Justin Mitchell, didn’t speak. His eyes were glued on the starry sky.
The family sat in folding camp chairs near the Western Nevada Dirt Track Racing Association Speedway outside Hawthorne. It had gathered on the side of the road to watch the annual Western Pyrotechnics Association fireworks show, Do it at the Depot.
Justin and Kaia said their favorite fireworks were the “bucket ones” and “the big ones,” which made them scream.
“We screamed on green, we screamed on red, we screamed on do-do,” Justin said, giggling. His sister joined in the giggling, as their grandpa gently chided Justin about his language.
Mitchell said it was the first year he brought his grandkids to the event, but he had watched the show three of the four years it was in Hawthorne.
The WPA is a group of fireworks enthusiasts that comes to Hawthorne each year to make and set off its own fireworks.
Each year the group sets off a number of the explosives — this year, it emptied a semi-trailer full of them — and makes dozens of others.
“We had a great event, we had a lot of fun,” said Lynden King, WPA president. “We did a lot of fireworks.”
The fireworks displays spanned three nights. The first firework was shot off at about 8 p.m. on Thursday, and the shells went off late into the night on Saturday.
At about 8 p.m. on Saturday night the WPA retired its extra explosive in the way of explosive enthusiasts — it filled a barrel with the leftovers and set it off with an electronic detonator.
The explosion left a crater about 10 feet across and five or six feet deep in the speedway sand, which the group filled in before it left on Sunday morning.
But destroying barrels of explosives isn’t the WPA’s only function in Hawthorne. It also came to entertain.
The Friday night the WPA put on an Armageddon show, in which hundreds of fireworks are set off in rapid succession. On Saturday was the member showcase, when the handmade shells made in Hawthorne were set off.
Several of the shells shot off on Saturday were experimental, others a tried and true formula, including some made by Hawthornites. Each time a firework leapt into the sky one of the children would call out “firework”, and they glued their eyes on the sky, vibrating with excitement.