Shortly after the sun went down on Saturday evening, thousands of fireworks lit up the night sky at Evans Towne Center Park for the grand conclusion of Thunder Over Evans. The incredible fireworks display, that included 36,000 projectiles, absolutely took the audience’s breath away and proved that Thunder Over Evans is not only the biggest fireworks display offered in the Augusta area, but also in all of Georgia and South Carolina.
Such an enormous number of fireworks included in one show is basically unheard of, even in major metropolitan areas, said Craig Butler, the pyrotechnician for Thunder Over Evans.
“You just don’t find that anywhere,” he said. “Maybe Thunder Over Louisville or in New York City or in Washington D.C. or perhaps in Sydney, Australia. But Thunder Over Evans has more shells than what will be shot off in the CSRA over the entire Fourth of July weekend. And I should know. This will be my 27th year doing the Fourth of July fireworks in downtown Augusta.”
As the largest privately funded Armed Forces Day celebration in the country, Thunder Over Evans was started by three local businessmen — Donnie Thompson, Andy Jones and the late Dale Phelon — who wanted to give something back to the men and women who serve our country.
It is the perfect opportunity to bring together the public and the military for a free, fun-filled day of events and a tribute to those who serve.
Butler said there is a great deal of time and effort put into, not only choreographing the fireworks show, but specifically labeling, packaging and shipping each shell by East Coast Pyrotechnics, a company based in Catawba, S.C.
“The team at East Coast Pyrotechnics put in over 300 hours of time into carefully labeling and packaging the shells prior to them even showing up at the site,” Butler said, adding that he used four computers to shoot off the fireworks at Thunder Over Evans on Saturday. “It is definitely a lot of work. In fact, it took over a week just to choreograph the show.”
Butler believes that the CSRA is extremely lucky to have local businessmen Donnie Thompson and Andy Jones who are willing to privately fund this enormous gift to the area.
“Thank God for Mr. Jones and Mr. Thompson,” Butler said. “There aren’t many businessmen around these days that would take money out of their own pocket to fund this kind of huge event and provide it to the public for free. We are very lucky to have them here. We have some awesome people in this town.”
Several member of the local military community could not agree more.
“Thunder Over Evans is an event that makes us feel a part of this community,” Col. Todd Turner, the garrison commander for Fort Gordon, recently told the Metro Spirit. “It is an event that honors our veterans and our fallen, those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom and our way of life, so we are very grateful to the local community.”
Those kinds of events mean the world to military families and soldiers at Fort Gordon, Turner said.
“This has got to be one of the most supportive military communities around,” Turner said of the entire CSRA. “We are very grateful to the local community and some of those senior leaders in the community that really work tremendously hard to orchestrate events like Thunder Over Evans. It means a lot.”
And Thunder Over Evans had a lot to offer the community this year.
Included in the day’s festivities was also an incredible motocross show featuring a variety of extreme motorcycle stunts by the nationally recognized riders of Team FMX.
Team FMX is a Florida-based company owned and operated by Travis Willis, a freestyle motocross rider who has been performing extreme motorcycle stunt shows and producing events throughout North America since 2000.
In fact, Willis has been riding, jumping and flipping motorcycles for the past 15 years across more than 30 countries.
Photos by Joe White:
After seeing the popularity of freestyle motocross skyrocket in the late 1990s, Willis designed and built a portable self-contained FMX ramp that travels non-stop putting on freestyle motocross exhibitions across the country.
Joining Thunder Over Evans for the sixth year in a row, these brave bikers performed everything from a move called the “rock solid” to the “backflip” right before the audience’s eyes.
Since the start of Team FMX, Willis and his bikers have been featured on a variety of different television shows and stations such as American Choppers, MTV’s Jackass, Fox Sports NET, Fuel TV, History Channel, TNN and Speed Channel.
Some of the members of Team FMX have even competed and placed in events at the X-Games and the Moto-X World championships.
Team FMX Rider Geoff Gaskin is from Montreal, Quebec and he is currently one of Canada’s best Professional Freestyle Motocross riders after performing at U.S. Monster Jam Shows, Supercross Races and many various demos and competitions.
At Thunder Over Evans, Gaskin completed an amazing front flip, much like the one he performed earlier this year in Denver during the Kicker Arenacross intermission.
The newest addition to Thunder Over Evans this year was a high-energy outdoor circus called No Joe’s Circus that thrilled the audience with amazing balancing acts, a “Wheel of Death” and performances on a multi-bar trapeze with absolutely no safety net.
Speaking of a high-energy performance, The Salamanders, a “party band” from Salt Lake City, Utah, brought down the house at Evans Towne Center Park on Saturday.
Led by singers, Rickae and Jordan Robbins, who also happen to be a married couple, The Salamanders are known for its world-class musicians who can smoothly skip from one music genre to another.
In fact, the band boasts that it has the ability to jump from pop to country, then to rap and Motown, and back to rock all in one show.
Several musicians in the band have also performed with other nationally known artists such as Kenny Loggins, Tanya Tucker, Marie Osmond, The Jets, Collin Raye, The Drifters, The Shirelles, Juice Newton, Lucy Lawless, as well as the late Debbie Reynolds.
Windsor Jewelers’ Donnie Thompson said Thunder Over Evans is all about honoring those in the military and thanking them for their service.
“It’s a community event to make the military feel good,” Thompson said. “And you will feel good that day about patriotism and the military.”
Photos by Michael Johnson