HighGuy and I went to the Pyrotechics Guild International competition Wednesday night in West Fargo. We took Darling Daughter and her boyfriend with us in our carpool. Good thing — at 8:30 or so, we were sitting in the grandstand looking at the long line of cars trying to get into the fairgrounds. We’d set out at 7:30.

I was ready for a chilly night. I had on a hoodie over another top, plus I carried a lined windbreaker. The night before had been chilly, too — I remember getting up in the night to close the window. Darling Daughter? Nah, she was going to be fine. I told her then that I’d give her my hoodie and put on my jacket when she got cold. And that’s just how it worked.

The sun went down and the show started. It was thrilling. Even the junior division’s exhibition was spectacular. The junior division is made up of school-age kids. They’re only limited by the amount of explosives they can use, if I understood the announcer correctly. Their fireworks didn’t soar as high, but they were beautiful and choreographed nicely to music. And just when you think they’re done, another song starts, and the fireworks keep going.

A Minnesota-based company put on the second show of the night. Their theme was “American-made,” and they made the most of it, using music by Aaron Copland to accompany their guided comets. The narrator there was clever — some of the re-recorded vocal stuff was hard to understand. They used Copland’s “Rodeo” — the music used by the beef association for their ads promoting, “Beef: It’s What’s for Supper.”

And what fireworks show would be complete without “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa? Heck, just the music (done well) gives me goosebumps. And then with huge shells blossoming in our faces? I challenge anyone to not get goosebumps. Words do not do it justice.

The final fireworks show of the night was from Dominator Fireworks. They used pop music to accompany their exhibition. It was breath-taking, too. The narrator explained how most fireworks in big shows like this are detonated by computer remotely. No one stands out there with a blowtorch, ready to run when the fuse takes. That’s nice to know. I think safety is a big part of their demonstrations — as it should be.

During the kids’ demonstration, there was a fair amount of ash and cardboard that fluttered into our faces. Once the bigger shows started, the breeze had picked up a little and blew more of it farther out. We didn’t stay for all the competition part of the night. It was already 11:30, and Darling and I both had to work the next day. (I was dragging.)

Perhaps the nicest thing about sitting there waiting for the fireworks to start was catching up with an old friend that I’d spotted in the stands just behind us. I went over and we visited for a while. We’d worked together on a tour of homes one year over Christmas — our theme was “Old-Fashioned Christmas.” Other homes were decorated in a German theme and a Norwegian theme, among others. It was fun; it was good to see Nancy again.

Getting OUT of the fairgrounds was another story. It was total gridlock. And if they’d had anybody there, REALLY directing traffic, they’d have had TWO lanes going out instead of just one. They need to work on that. The Fargodome has traffic down to an art. Sure there’s still gridlock, but at least there’s some movement after a couple minutes of waiting. At the fairgrounds, I was afraid I’d run out of gas before we got moving again.

This was the third time we’d been to the show — we’d gone one year and sat in a parking lot somewhere in West Fargo. Then the last time they were here, we bought general admission tickets. This year again we had general admission tickets — and ten dollars is a bargain as far as I’m concerned. What pleased me even more: HighGuy said that next time the guild holds their competition here, we’ll go to the Friday night finale. I’m already looking forward to it.