Fireworks convention coming to Pennsylvania campground

With plenty of open space and a large, fireworks-loving population nearby, Butler County in western Pennsylvania has landed an international fireworks convention that is expected to draw thousands of visitors and pump millions into the economy in August, officials said.

The Pyrotechnics Guild International plans a formal announcement today (Oct. 17) of its 2013 convention coming to Cooper’s Lake Campground in Worth, adjacent to Moraine State Park, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

“It’s the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen with fireworks in my entire life,” Jack Cohen, president of the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau, said about other guild conventions that he has attended.

County and local officials are making plans to ease expected traffic delays, which could be worsened by bridge construction on Interstate 79 at the Route 422 interchange, close to the campground that will host 1,500 to 2,000 guild members for the Aug. 10-17 event.

The convention will include safety demonstrations and four major fireworks displays that feature advancements and new technology.

“It’s a huge event. It’s a traveling circus that’s family-oriented,” said Dan Creagan, guild president.

Cohen said the county tourism bureau approached the organization about five years ago to consider Butler County for one of its conventions. The bureau has promised $30,000 to subsidize marketing and some of the pyrotechnics, he said.

The guild committed to a 2013 convention in the county about 18 months ago.

Creagan said the group, which hosts a convention each year, looks for a large space close to a large population area. Besides the location, Western Pennsylvanians love fireworks. Each year, there are dozens here — from traditional Independence Day celebrations to Pirates games.

“(Tourism officials) were swell as to the kind of things we needed to do to get through the hoops” for approval of a local safety plan and to assist in getting state and federal permits to transport and shoot off fireworks, Creagan said.

The group will spend at least $2 million to put on the convention, Creagan said, on everything from food and supplies to heavy-equipment rental and construction materials.

Tourism officials said they expect people attending to spend $2 million to $3.5 million extra.

About 7,000 hotel nights are reserved, Cohen said.

PennDOT in the spring will begin a major revamp of bridges at the I-79 and Route 422 interchange in Muddy Creek, less than a mile from the convention campground, which could cause major traffic delays. Officials have estimated at least 20,000 to 30,000 vehicles could travel to the campgrounds each day.

PennDOT officials said they have been working with county officials to ease traffic headaches, including advertising detours on Routes 19, 108 and 208. The county last week opened a two-lane bridge off Currie Road that should ease traffic, Cohen said.

PennDOT officials said a contractor will keep open two unrestricted lanes of traffic in each direction on Route 422 during the convention.

Admission to the campground for fireworks displays still isn’t determined, officials said, though a $1 parking fee would benefit the Rotary Club of Butler County, Cohen said.