‘We haven’t given up’: steam fireworks enthusiast will attempt second world record attempt

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Fireworks expert Tim Borden still plans to attempt his world record fireworks attempt on Saturday, despite a winter storm. He and his team have made the final preparations for the event and feel good about their chances of success.
Derek Maiolo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Tim Borden knows that failure doesn’t define a person – it’s what that person does as a result of failure that matters most.

A longtime fireworks fanatic, he made it his mission to build and detonate the world’s largest aerial fireworks display – a pursuit that was not without challenges.

After a failed launch last year, Borden and his team plan to attempt their second world record at the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival Night Extravaganza on Saturday, February 8. The Guinness Book of Records judges will be there to determine Borden’s success. .



“We didn’t give up. We have every confidence that this thing will succeed, ”said Borden.

The business is the culmination of years of calculations and experiments, a small fortune – the amount of which he refuses to disclose, even to his wife – and a lot of cassettes.



What went wrong

Those who watched last year’s failed launch may have seen a narrow burst of golden sparks explode just above Howelsen Hill. Otherwise, it’s because the shell didn’t actually leave the mortar, as it was supposed to. The fact that it did not explode in midair was the main reason the Guinness Book of Records referee determined that the fireworks did not set the world record.

This is not the only misfortune that befalls Borden that day. Hours earlier he had torn his two quads apart while trying to carry the 2,700-pound fireworks display, an injury he is still recovering from.

Fortunately, the measurements taken at the mortar site shed light on what went wrong during the launch. According to Borden, there was not enough lift to launch the shell and too much explosive force at the time of detonation.

“The combination of those two elements detonated the shell in the mortar,” Borden said.

To solve the problem, Borden and his team developed a milder mixture of explosives. They also used over 58 pages of engineering calculations and diagrams just to design the mortar.

“It was definitely educational,” said Ed MacArthur, one of the Borden team members.

Owner of Native Excavating, MacArthur brings his welding expertise to the construction of the mortar where the shell will rest and from which it will fire. Last year’s explosion damaged the launch site, so he fortified it with another metal plate and installed metal sleeves for added strength.

Risky business

At a safety meeting last week, City of Steamboat Springs officials met with Borden to discuss some of the risks of launching the fireworks and how to mitigate the dangers.

When the fireworks display is launched and hopefully explodes, the shell will send chunks of thick cardboard shards to the ground. Deputy Fire Chief Chuck Cerasoli mapped an area of ​​fallout within 2,250 feet from the summit of Howelsen. The area was chosen to protect people and buildings from debris.

Fireworks expert Jim Widmann weighs in at the 2,700-pound shell which he hopes will break the world record for the largest aerial fireworks ever launched.
Derek Maiolo

As a safety measure, the city will temporarily close a 150-yard section of River Road, preventing traffic from crossing the Fifth Street Bridge. The shutdown is only expected to last about five minutes when the fireworks launch, Borden said.

Borden also told city officials he was prepared to cancel the launch if bad weather, especially high winds, posed a threat to public safety.

“He doesn’t want to endanger anyone,” said Gary Suiter, city manager of Steamboat Springs.

Suiter acknowledged that the sound of fireworks can have negative effects on pets and veterans, saying the city is sensitive to these issues. He and Borden pointed out that the fireworks did not contain any toxic material. A pickup crew will clean up the large debris that falls, and the rest should decompose, Borden said.

Uncharted territory

The current world record for the largest aerial fireworks shell belongs to the United States “Fireworks by Grucci” and “Al Marjan Island” of the United Arab Emirates. The joint team launched a 2,397 pound fireworks display in the UAE during the country’s 2017-18 New Year celebrations.

Borden’s fireworks display measures 62 inches in diameter and weighs over 2,700 pounds. He designed and built it with the help of two fellow fireworks experts, Jim Widmann and Eric Krug. Along with MacArthur, the four have spent much of the past seven years meticulously refining their craft.

“If you spend time with them, you will discover a passion for fireworks that you don’t see anywhere else,” MacArthur said.

Their first design was a 24 inch shell, and each year they launched bigger and bigger fireworks. In February 2017, Borden fired a 48-inch shell, the largest shell ever launched in North America.

Trying to break a world record comes with the unique challenge of doing what no one has done before – and therefore no one knows exactly how to do it. This means that no matter how many engineering pages or miles of bandwidth the fireworks display, there is no guarantee that it will succeed. For Borden, that’s part of the excitement.

” It’s an experience. It’s never been done, so of course there are a lot of unknowns, ”Borden said. “We’re just going to hope for the best.”

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.



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