Cars line the road for miles in either direction. 50,000 gather from all over the country. A clip of Rick Flair blares on a giant screen in front of a wide, roped-off field. When the DeBernards put on a fireworks show, they mean business.
On Saturday, July 25, Pat DeBernard hosted what he calls the biggest backyard fireworks show in the country.
“There’s just something about the power of fireworks,” DeBernard said.
People begin to gather near DeBernard’s backyard early in the afternoon. By evening it’s tough to find a parking spot within two miles of the show.
At 6:30 p.m. DeBernard hosts a barbecue for family and friends. After that, for the past two years the event has received military flyovers. Once dusk hits DeBernard and his fireworks crew, as the matching T-shirts he gives his children and grandchildren say, begin scurrying around for the culmination of two days’ preparations and years of tradition.
DeBernard put on his first show in 1995 with a few friends and family members. Now, 25 years later, DeBernard’s show has become something of a cultural institution in Campbell County.
DeBernard usually has the show the week before the Fourth of July but this year’s show was postponed because of the pandemic. Though DeBernard said it’s stressful to host such a large event, he knew he couldn’t cancel it.
Even when DeBernard’s wife contracted breast cancer about 10 years ago and DeBernard thought the show wouldn’t happen again, a friend talked him into one more year. DeBernard said it’s continued to grow ever since.
As the fireworks crew takes their positions, the projector starts up and Rick Flair’s speech is wedged between videos of people who come to the show every year thanking the DeBernards for hosting the event.
At 9:30 p.m., the show begins.
DeBernard and his family light off 17,000 fireworks as “God Bless America,” plays in the background. Wide-eyed spectators lean back in their lawn chairs. Half an hour passes before DeBernard runs out of fireworks.
As the show comes to a close, people cheer and linger for a while before they pack up their cars and leave.
Though he’s been doing it for years, DeBernard said the show still hasn’t gotten old.
“There’s something about the flare in your hand and the explosion in the sky,” DeBernard said.