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Greta Rybus

Greta Rybus is a photojournalist and photo editor living in Portland. She started her blog, “Who I Met," as a way to begin juicy conversations with interesting people she meets. The blog has migrated with her from Montana, Europe, and, finally, to her new and dearly-loved home in Maine. You can see more of her work at www.gretarybus.com

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Who I Met with Greta Rybus
Posted: June 25, 2013

SEAN MACMILLIAN- OWNER OF A FIREWORKS STORE AND DISC GOLF COURSE

Sean’s firework shop looks like it once was a mechanic’s shop, located on the side of busy Route 1 in Holden, Maine.  Its big windows are filled with a colorful display meant to look like a patio, and the large garage doors are rolled open to let in the sun. The shelves are stocked with colorful containers of fireworks, their packaging both silly and macho.

In the land surrounding the shop, Sean has carved a disc golf course into the forest. It’s geography mimics the celestial bodies, with some holes named after supernaturally relevant locations.

On the wall behind the store’s cash register, Sean has placed a sign that reads:

Important Notice:
Do not use the fireworks to signal or attract UFOs or extraterrestrials.

“It’s a joke”, he says, laughing.  But I wonder if there is a small part of him that hopes that someday, when he sets a firework skyward, a set of lights will answer back.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR DECISION TO OPEN A FIREWORKS SHOP.

I was in the construction business for twenty-plus years. I owned a construction business and we primarily did government contracts, primarily putting in underground utilities like sewer lines, water lines, manholes and fire hydrants.  That type of business is just getting harder and harder with regulations and the physical difficulty of doing it. I applied for different jobs, and no one wants to hire an old used-up construction worker, so after they changed the regulations for fireworks, I decided to go for it and open up a fireworks store and build a disc golf course.

 TELL ME ABOUT HOW YOU DECORATED YOUR SHOP.

Well, I put up the big “God Bless America” mainly for decoration to fill the walls. It’s kind of ironic because I put up the “Land of the Free” with the security cameras right underneath. One of the biggest items we sell is called Excaliber: a 24 pack of canister shells, which are these big, big shots that come out of a tube and shoot off in the air about 250 feet or so. They give off huge explosions with the colors and all that. So I dragged a big rock into the store and drilled a hole in it and put the swords in the stone like King Arthur.

 TELL ME ABOUT THE UFO SIGN.

Ever since I was probably in sixth grade, I’ve been looking into UFOs, Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, stuff like that. So, I read a lot of books about aliens. I made this sign about an actual law passed by the United States Government in 1968, and it says that citizens can come into contact with extra terrestrials or their vehicles. And if you do, you have to be quarantined. Because you don’t want any alien viruses coming down from outer space. I just made this sign as a joke.

 TELL ME ABOUT YOUR DISC GOLF COURSE.

Back to the alien thing, I name all the disc golf holes after extra terrestrial and celestial bodies. The first hole is named Carnac, after a place in France where they have all these big huge stones all lined up in a row, hundreds and thousands of them all. A lot of people think the Earth has some sort of energy grid, and that ancient people used to put these stones on certain points where the energy points would bisect longitudinally and latitudinally. At those points, you could tap into these somehow.

 TELL ME ABOUT HOW YOUR INTEREST IN THE SUPERNATURAL SHAPED YOUR LIFE?

I think what it comes down to is that basically, you have hundreds if not thousands if not tens of thousands of credible people all around the world, at various times, saying things happened. Whether it’s a ghost sighting or a UFO or something strange in the woods. It is my fact that it is statistically impossible for them all to not be true. I think the government pretty much lies to you about anything or everything. The thing about the UFOs is that obviously they don’t get here by filling their UFO with gasoline. They must tap into some sort of energy that would put all the billionaires out of business.

 WHY FIREWORKS?

Compared to the other things I’ve done, it’s relatively simple. Less complex. I could do a lot of it by myself. I didn’t need twenty people.

 DO YOU HAVE GOOD MEMORIES OF FIREWORKS FROM YOUR CHILDHOOD?

Oh, yeah! We used to let fireworks off in Veazie, a small town with only about 2,000 people on the Penobscot River. We used to shoot ‘em off in our street when we were kids. Nobody ever got hurt, but I’m surprised.

 THERES A SENSE OF FUN TO THIS SHOP. MANY FIREWORKS HAVE FUNNY NAMES. HOW DO YOU CHOOSE YOUR INVENTORY?

I watch a lot of videos about fireworks online. I actually flew to Kansas to see a show, like a shoot off. The manufacturer shot off all these different things. Most people take their family to Florida on vacation, but I took my wife and kids to a warehouse in Kansas.  That was my wife’s highlight of her spring.

 

 TELL ME ABOUT THE LEGALITY OF FIREWORKS IN MAINE.

The State has fairly general laws about when and what you can shoot off. They basically let you shoot of any type of consumer fireworks, except for things that have wings. Or sky lanterns, which you fill with hot air from a candle and can fly off into someone else’s property.  Or bottle rockets, because people used to shoot them at each other.

WHAT KIND OF STORIES DO YOU HEAR ABOUT WHY PEOPLE BUY FIREWORKS?

One guy came in here specifically looking for something to shoot out of a slingshot. So, I couldn’t help him there. There are a lot of people who want to annoy their neighbor, that’s a common theme.

 

 WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU?

My family, and being happy in general. And, customer safety, because obviously people start getting hurt with the fireworks. People need to be safe, some of them are quite dangerous if not used properly. But I think most people realize what they are and what they can do. I try to encourage safety.

TELL ME ABOUT A LESSON YOU ARE LEARNING OR HAVE RECENTLY LEARNED.

Be careful cutting trees down in the woods. They could go the wrong way! I don’t think that deep about things, I guess.

 WHAT’S THE BEST MOMENT OF AN AVERAGE DAY?

Oh, when we make a big sale!

 

 

 

 

 

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