On July 4, Dustin Wee will launch Mitchell’s fireworks show over Lake Mitchell again.
And when that’s over, he’ll do something he’s never done before.
Wee, who will be shooting the Mitchell show for the fourth time, will honor his late grandfather with an extra tribute. He’s planning 81 mortar blasts — one for each year of John Crater’s life — that will extend the show past its usual approximate 10:20 p.m. end time.
Crater, who lived in Mitchell and died on Jan. 3, was one of Wee’s biggest fans. Wee said while his grandfather’s health waned late in his life due to West Nile encephalitis, he remained excited each year for the fireworks show — the shower-like fireworks were his favorites — something he’d talk about with his grandson regardless of what time of year it was.
“He always attended the shows, and it was something he always liked to talk about,” Wee said. “He was about as supportive a person as I could have known.”
Wee, who also runs his own lawn care and snow removal business, has been professionally trained to shoot fireworks for more than 10 years, and he will be shooting Mitchell’s show for Lew’s Fireworks, based in Watertown.
Wee is paying for fireworks for the extra tribute, which he said will not be a small or quiet show. The fireworks scheduled to be fired are 8-inch mortars.
“It’s going to feel like Mitchell is going to collapse,” Wee joked. “If you think the world is ending, it’s not.”
Crater grew up in Miller and served in the U.S. Army as a military police officer in Germany from 1958 to 1961. After getting married in 1964 to his wife, Alice, he worked in various financial and accounting positions until retiring in 2005. He was an avid bowler, golfer and motorcycle rider, and sang both in his church choir and for karaoke.
Wee said there will likely be a gap of at least 30 minutes from the end of the regular Mitchell show to the start of his tribute. That’s because he will need to reload the canisters and tubes to shoot off another set of fireworks.
“We’re going to shoot the first show and then reload, and that’s something new for me, as well,” he said.
Mitchell’s fireworks show, which is supported by the Mitchell Exchange Club, takes place at Lake Mitchell’s Windy Point. The explosions begin around dusk. Wee said he wanted potential showgoers to know that additional fireworks are planned for this year.
Firing his hometown’s Independence Day fireworks show is always a special honor, Wee said. This year, it will have an additional special meaning.
“It’s really the icing on the cake,” he said. “I think this is the perfect tribute, and I think it’s something he would have appreciated it.”