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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: January 13, 2015

Winter fireworks are better, brighter, louder: Upcoming displays in Maine

Upcoming Maine winter fireworks include displays at Sunday River, Sugarloaf and Saddleback ski areas, plus Camden Winterfest and the Rangeley Snodeo.

Written by: Ray Routhier

If you love fireworks – and who doesn’t – you’ll REALLY love winter fireworks.

Fireworks pros, and people who study the night sky, will tell you there’s no question that fireworks displays are better in the winter.

“I’d say without a doubt it’s a very different experience in the winter,” said Matt Shea, vice president of Atlas PyroVision Entertainment Group, which puts on many of Maine’s fireworks displays, including winter ones. “The air is crisper so the noise is louder. Everything looks brighter. It’s a very different canvas.”

If you’ve never experienced winter fireworks, you’ll get plenty of chances in the next few months, especially if you don’t mind driving up to the mountains.

Some of the fireworks displays scheduled for the remainder of this winter include ones at Sunday River, Sugarloaf and Saddleback ski areas, plus the Camden Winterfest and the Rangeley Snodeo. (See the accompanying schedule)

The canvas for fireworks, as Shea put it, is the night sky. And it’s gorgeous this time of year.

“As far as the sky is concerned, this is the best time of year to have fireworks,” said Edward Gleason, manager and astronomer at the University of Southern Maine’s Southworth Planetarium in Portland. “In winter, there is a greater arrangement of bright stars visible to us (in Maine.)”

Besides being louder and brighter, and set against brighter stars, there are several other reasons to check out winter fireworks.

The cold air means there will be less smoke to obscure the view, said Shea. He also reminds that there’s no fog, as on humid days, to block the view. And, there are no bugs.

But you do have to bundle up, which is not a concern on July 4th.

Gleason says that since most winter fireworks are held in rural areas – ski resorts, snowmobile round-ups and winter festivals – you don’t get the light pollution you might in a more populated area. Gleason also points out that when summer fireworks are shot off on Independence Day it’s usually around 9 or 9:30 p.m. It’s basically twilight so the sky is not very dark and bright stars are not very visible.

But in the winter, if fireworks go off at say 8 p.m., the sun’s been down for three hours, everything’s dark, and the stars are shining.

Plus, if there’s a snowy background, that’s a bonus.

“Ski areas are fantastic places for fireworks because there’s a nice dark sky and a nice white background,” said Shea. “It makes quite a difference.”

Upcoming winter fireworks displays in Maine

All are free and open to the public and all are weather permitting. (For even more winter fairs and festivals: Maine Winter Fairs & Festivals 2015

SATURDAY – Sunday River, 97 Summit Road, Newry, at 8:30 p.m.
Best viewing is at the South Ridge Lodge or on the deck of the Foggy Goggle restaurant. Other fireworks displays at Sunday River are scheduled for Jan. 24, Feb. 7, 14, 19, 25, and March 4, 18 and 21, all at 8:30 p.m.

JAN. 24 – Rangeley Snowmobile Snodeo, Lakeside Park, Main St., Rangeley, around 6 p.m.
Fireworks are scheduled for the third day of the Snodeo and will follow a snowmobile parade on the lake. The parade begins at 6 p.m.

JAN. 26 – Sugarloaf, 5092 Access Road, Carrabassett Valley, at 8 p.m.
The fireworks will be part of the Maine Winter Special Olympics event and will feature a “torchlight” parade of skiers with large glow sticks. The best viewing area is the resort’s “beach” area in front of the base lodge. A fireworks display will also be held at Sugarloaf on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m., and on March 25, time to be determined.

FEB. 7 – Camden Winterfest, Harbor Park, Main St., Camden, at 6:15 p.m.
The fireworks show is being held the same weekend as the U.S. National Toboggan Championships in Camden and will immediately follow a snow plow parade, which begins at 5:30 p.m., on Main Street.

FEB. 19 – Saddleback, 976 Saddleback Mountain Road, Rangeley, at 7 p.m.
The event begins at 6 p.m. with a “torchlight” parade down the mountain of skiers carrying flares, followed by the fireworks. Best viewing is from the base lodge area.

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