Before I got involved, Nick Christi, Glen Stokes, John Ranville and several other volunteers raised the money for the fireworks shows by collecting donations from businesses and individuals, as well as fundraisers like a beer tent.
The shows were usually held the last Saturday closest to the 4th of July during the Lions Club Jubilee in downtown Lake Orion.
Glen held a Pyro Technician license and did a number of shows around the state under the name of Wolverine Fireworks Association. The Lion’s Club would donate money to LOFA to do the show put on by Wolverine as it helped bring in the crowds downtown for their Jubilee.
Nick put up a beer tent at his family restaurant site, the Orion House on Clarkston Road and M-24, to help raise the money for the show. Nick was my next door neighbor at that time and came to me around 1998 and said he couldn’t do the beer tent anymore as it was too time-consuming and costly to him. I said who was going to raise the money for the show and he said “how about you”? I agreed and he handed me the LOFA checkbook. I asked him for the documents for the organization and he said that they registered an assumed name and opened up the checking account, period!
My company’s CPA firm at that time was UHY and the CPA from that firm for my company was Chris Peterson. Chris volunteered to be the accountant for LOFA and he set up the Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws. I was named President and Chris was the Treasurer and his wife was also on the original three-person board which was allowed by the By-laws.
Steve Drakos, a local attorney, volunteered to set LOFA up as a non-profit with the IRS. which became a 501-C4 and began filing tax returns.
At that time the show was being fired from the beach at Green’s Park on M-24. It was all done by hand and Nick was one of the people who actually fired the rounds from “guns” set in the sand.
9/11 happened in 2001 and laws were put in place that fireworks could not be shot within 500 feet of a major highway. M-24 was classified as a major highway and that is when LOFA bought a barge to shoot the show from the lake, which required LO Village and DNR approval, which is still the case today. The blue barge is still on the lake but LOFA, thru Ace Pyro, who is currently doing the display, purchased a new bigger platform.
The Lion’s club moved the Jubilee to Canterbury Village for a few years and they stopped donating to LOFA. We continued the show on the closest Saturday to the 4th.
Several years later, the Lion’s Club brought the Jubilee back to the village but scheduled it for the weekend before the weekend of the 4th. They asked LOFA to move the fireworks show back to meet their Saturday Jubilee as previously had been done.
LOFA did a survey around the Lake and people unanimously wanted to keep the show on the closest Saturday to the 4th, so we could not accommodate the Lion’s Club. This caused some resentment from their group and they decided to do their own show.
LOFA continued to do the show on the east side of the lake and people on the west side of the lake wanted to have the show on their side.
We tried to accommodate them and one year did the show on their side. LOFA was going to alternate the sides of the lake each year but complaints came in from the people on both sides and that’s when LOFA decided to do the “Dueling Fireworks Show” which we were told was the only show of its kind in the Midwest.
We had to raise twice the money but the complaints disappeared. The Lake Orion Police Department and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said it was much safer as the number of boats jamming the lake were spread out more and a lot less in number as people could watch from their property instead of going out in their boats.
In 2020 we didn’t know if we were going to be allowed to do the show because of the pandemic restrictions, but Greg Rogers, a resident of Lake Orion, did a GoFundMe for LOFA and the show was allowed, which was shot on July 2 only on the east side of the lake because of the inability to raise enough funds to pay for a “Dueling Fireworks Show.”
This year, the LOFA board said that if we raised enough money we would go back to the “Dueling Fireworks Show.”
We were unsure of what would take place, so some members of the LOFA board agreed to discuss a show in cooperation with the Lion’s Club.
However, the Jubilee is the weekend before the 4th of July weekend.
Again, this has caused confusion and some people are upset because the Community Calendar was still showing the display on July 3 and people made plans well in advance of the show for family reunions and parties.
LOFA starts receiving calls before the end of the year to get the fireworks dates for their events. The show is now scheduled for June 26 on the east side of the lake during the Lions Club Jubilee, with LOFA donating the money to pay for that show as not enough money was raised to do a show on both sides.
I have resigned as the president and board member of LOFA and a new board has taken over the reins. It has been a long run, over 20 years, with a lot of hard work by the board members as well as the many dedicated volunteers over the years to make the shows happen.
There has been a lot of drama over the years, like one year we were loading the fireworks on the barge to get it in position for the show when a wind shear or tornado came thru and almost sank our barge and soaked the fireworks so the show was delayed to the next day!
I have appreciated the support of the Community as well as donations from individuals, businesses, and the Lake Orion Boat Club for their donations and the use of their facility on the lake for a popular community breakfast fundraiser, as well as M&B Graphics for their donation of printed material.
Over the years we have had different Board members and volunteers and all have been appreciated for their time and dedication.
Carl Cyrowski, Past President LOFA