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Light a fuse for freedom's sake

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
Dustin Cates feels the power while celebrating Fourth of July 2020 as he lights Class B explosives during an annual private show at Elm Mills lake. He was working under a licensed operator for that type of material.

Other than a few frightened dogs, most residents of Pratt County enjoyed a variety of fireworks displays on Fourth of July weekend, with options at Pratt County Veterans Memorial Lake, Elm Mills and the Park Hills Country Club.

At the county lake, the American Legion Riders put on their annual show from the center isthmus for watchers who lined the parking areas, piers and roadways.

"I was thrilled with how smoothly the whole event went," said Pratt County Sheriff Jimmy White. "We didn't have any problems with traffic flow, didn't have to break up any arguments, no drunks and disorderly conduct and no citations. I'm absolutely shocked that we didn't have any serious problems given that it was a full moon, Saturday night and Fourth of July. It was a great night for our community out at the lake."

Elsewhere in Pratt, there was a rumored incident to have taken place at the American Legion Pavilion when someone threw sticks of dynamite into a crowd, but the police department was never contacted over that incident and there was no verification that something of that nature ever happened during July 4th celebrations, according to the county sheriff's office.

South of Pratt, at Elm Mills, Dale Withers and company hosted a private Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza for those living at, or visiting, the lake.

Dustin Cates, who along with his brother Brandon Cates lit the fuses for the show, said the Class B explosives they used were more powerful than common Class C explosives sold at public stands.

"You have to be licensed to obtain these," Cates said. "There’s training involved in becoming qualified to handle the material and maintain the licensed status with the ATF. Brandon is licensed and we work under him."

Cates said, each year he loves the moment when all the planning and preparation for the holiday come together.

"I throughly appreciated the magnitude and splendor of what we were doing," he said. "It’s very dangerous and requires a high regard for safety and respect. There’s quite a bit of coordination and communication that goes into those shows and it just feels great when everything explodes in the sky!"

Pratt Hills County Club patrons invited the public to a fireworks display on Friday evening, July 3 on the golf course. Their sponsorship could be viewed from most anywhere in Pratt, as colorful blooms and booms lit up the sky for the holiday, which like at other venues was dedicated to celebrating freedom.