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Thomson man helps light up area for Fourth

When the fireworks blaze through the night at the patriotic celebration at Raysville Marina Friday night, McDuffie County resident Craig Butler and his two sons' focus will not only be on how beautiful the colors are, but on how safe he can keep him and his helpers.

FIREWORKS_GUY.jpg

Thomson resident "Crazy" Craig Butler, posing with some of the inventory in his fireworks store, will have a busy Fourth of July.

The show, in honor of the Fourth of July, begins at around 9:15 p.m. Friday, as soon as darkness settles. Prior to the sparks, you can get in the spirit with Tony Cannon and the Southbound Band at the marina. On Saturday, the 246 S.C. Army Band will strike up the holiday at the Raysville Boat Club beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Mr. Butler, who operates Crazy Craig's during the Fourth holiday period, gets the joy of blowing up thousands of dollars each year, but the month of July is especially explosive.

His singlewide mobile home, now tightly stocked with thousands of fireworks in hundreds of configurations, is nearly four miles into South Carolina on Highway 378. On that well traveled road, it is the first place people can buy fireworks after leaving Georgia.

On Friday night, Mr. Butler, a superintendent for the R.W. Allen construction company, will do double duty. After rigging the $6,000 Raysville show, he will head to Augusta to coordinate the Augusta GreenJackets show, which will have been rigged earlier in the day. Following are a $15,000 show at the Ritz Carlton at Lake Oconee Saturday and a $22,000, 22-minute show in Augusta at the 5th Street Bridge Sunday night.

"I've done nearly 500 shows since 1986. From St. Louis, to Destin Fla., to Greensboro S.C. to Thomson's Brickyard, I've done quite a few," he said.

His wife, Gloria, mans the fireworks store when he is away doing firework shows during the Fourth holiday period. His son's Chase and Chevy also work with him in the shows making it a family affair.

"I guess you could say I love it; and in my situation, my sons and wife are involved with the store and with the shows, so it's really special," he said, adding that his love for fireworks came long ago.

"If I didn't get fireworks in my stocking when I was little, I thought Santa Claus was a Scrooge. Mom always made sure I had them," he said.

Besides the logistics of the shows, Mr. Butler sorted 132 cases of fireworks that showed up at his store Saturday. He busied himself stocking his shelves as several buyers happened by his store four miles across the river on Highway 378 in South Carolina.

"Stocking this place is old hat," he said. "I've done if for years and found that folks love to procrastinate. A lot of people wait until the last minute to get them. But when they want them, we have them."

While Mr. Butler knows people come from Georgia to buy fireworks and then return to Georgia to shoot them off, he reminds people that fireworks are illegal in Georgia.

"Look, do this: Come to my shop and buy your fireworks and stay in South Carolina to use them," he said.

While the shows may be old hat after 18 years, Mr. Butler says safety is not old hat.

"Explosions that control a projectile that goes 1,500 feet in the air, so the detonation is intense, and if there is a malfunction, it can get you," he said, recalling close calls in the past. "Chase has had shells land beside him and explode and break the skin.

"I've had shells detonate in the rack, exploding the rack and scattering debris. I've had a shell land in the back of my pickup truck 100 feet away.

"There will be people this holiday weekend that will lose their life shooting fireworks, both legally and illegally," he said. "When I stop and think about that, it makes me even more cautious to think that I or one of my sons could be one of those. Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise, and my sons will always be safe and shooting fireworks somewhere."



Web posted on Thursday, July 1, 2004


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