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The Dubuque Fireworks to Explode Again Shortly after Twilight on July 3rd

**Update: Check out our footage of the Air Show planes HERE.

Many families in the Tri-State area have made a tradition of gathering together to watch the 3rd of July air show and fireworks display. There is a lot of time, effort and hard work put into the event.

Perry Mason, the General Sales Manager at Radio Dubuque, is one of the important people behind the scenes who helps organize the July 3rd event every year and is here to explain the show and what it takes to make the spectacular performance happen. Perry knows a thing or two about throwing a good show and has been involved with the air show through its entirety of 25 years. Perry explains, “This is the 25th anniversary of the air Show. We have one of the biggest shows in the nation. Going to the show not only provides a great bonding and get-together time with family and friends, but it is also an awesome show that simply can’t be missed.”

Perry Mason Dubuque

Perry Mason of Radio Dubuque


How did the Dubuque Fireworks get started?
We started off with a $5,000 fireworks display with the Jaycee’s back in 1985 up by Wahlert High School. We then moved it down to the river and had it synced with our radio station to accommodate the rising number of spectators. Since then it has gotten bigger and bigger… we added the air show and added more fireworks and now it is one of the biggest shows in the nation. Our budget used to be $5,000 now it’s close to $100,000. This show is ranked as one of the top 15 shows in the country. It has been in air show magazines and travel magazines as well as other media. We have four national press groups coming to the show so far this year.

How do you get all the different air show acts together?
There is a conference that is held every year where air show enthusiasts can get together. I’ve been a part of it for the last 15 years or so. This is where I meet and ask the the people in charge of these planes to participate in the show. We get together and have a great time, it’s all relationship building. If you have satisfied customers and a good show, you can offer them what they want and they will come to you!

How many people attend the Tri-State Show?
The Air Force estimates that there’s well over a 150,000 people who attend the show. The neat thing about this show is that you can watch it from all three states and listen to our radio stations to listen to the play-by-play of what’s happening so you can “be there” without actually being there.


Do you know if any people outside the Tri-State area come to the show?
Yes, people come from all over. People are coming all the way from Turkey to see the show this year. The furthest anyone has ever come to see the show was from Madras, India – and they came specifically to see this show!


How many fireworks are we looking at for this year’s Dubuque Fireworks show?
I don’t have the exact numbers but it’s in the thousands. The big
gest shell we have is a 7″ shell.  We limit it to a 7″ shell for safety reasons.

Exactly how much work is involved in putting together the show?
***Half a chuckle and a big “you-have-NO-idea” expression crosses Perry’s face…***
I start preparing for next year’s show directly after this show is over. The very next business day I start making contacts. There’s a lot of paperwork that goes into closing the river. I work with three different states, the Coastguard out of St. Louis, the Pentagon, Fire and Police protection… I actually hurt a muscle in my arm from holding the phone too much, that’s why they gave me the headset.


Is it difficult to work with the Pentagon and/or Air Force?
No… the hardest part is the regulations that we have to follow, but it’s all fun. It’s all worth it and it’s an honor to support the men and women of the armed forces that give us the freedom that we enjoy today.


Any big surprises this year?
Let’s just say it will be a show you don’t want to miss. We have the Golden Knights Parachute team dropping in, the A-10 East Demonstration Team that has been here for 14 of the last 15 years, the F-18 Superhornet which is a first for the show, and the B1 Bomber. We will also have a special dogfight tribute to World War II vets with a P-51 Mustang and the actual Japanese Zero that was in the movies “Tora Tora Tora” and “Pearl Harbor” as well as other various shows.

I’m assuming you’re a big fan of these aircrafts?
It is living history and pretty awesome.  My dad was a P-38 pilot in World War II and I like the fact that they are on our side.

Everything pretty much ready to go for this Dubuque Fireworks show?
Yes, everything is going as scheduled. Runde’s, and I mean this very sincerely, has been a great aid. Part of my work with the military is to make sure everything works like clockwork. For me, working with Runde’s for the last couple of years has been fabulous, absolutely fabulous. Runde’s always makes sure that I have the best of the best vehicles and that they are all ready to go. I can’t even tell ya… it’s just super. It’s nice to be able to go and pick up the people coming in for the show all at once. These people are traveling all the time. They bring their service team and everything with them. It’s important that everything goes smoothly for them. Runde’s sure makes my life a whole lot easier. It’s one less thing in our minds that we don’t have to worry about. Everyone enjoys the vehicles Runde’s provides and thinks they are great.

Update: Perry and crew picked up the vehicles from Runde’s! Check out what the process is like to get the vehicles here!


What is your favorite part of the Dubuque Fireworks show?
Looking at all of the people with their facial expressions saying, “WOW, this is cool”.


How do you determine what songs to use during the Dubuque Fireworks show?
We generate the music at the radio station and have a committee that selects which songs to
play. From there we tweak them and send them to the fireworks company where they computerize everything to be synced with the fireworks as they are timed with the show.

Golden Knights Calendar

Golden Knights Calendar


How long is the air show?
We start the air show at 6:00pm and it lasts ’til 8:30pm, then we have a special tribute at 9:00pm ’til around 9:20pm. This is where we dedicate the fireworks and air show to the veterans for all they have done for us. We will be reading the names of those killed in recent conflicts to our listening area. The Golden Knights will be performing a pyro jump at night. They actually used a photo out of Dubuque in their 2009-2011 Calendar when they did their pyro jump at last years event.

How many planes are going to be in the show this year?
Probably about 10.

Does anything ever not go according to plan when organizing all of these different things?
One year just before the Dubuque Fireworks, two kids had climbed some trees on an island within the radius that is supposed to be clear of people on the day of the show. We had to delay the show and make sure the kids were out of there. If that would have been the moment when the B1 bomber were to fly in, he would have had to leave without a showing because he has to be at Mt. Rushmore roughly 15 minutes after he flies here.

I noticed two patches on your wall, they have the names; Borman, Lovell and Anders on them. What do they represent?
Well, Frank Borman is from Apollo VIII, which was the first flight to go around the moon. Frank Borman was here at our air show a number of years ago and had a drink with all of us. It is interesting to have had a piece of history sit down with us. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie “Apollo Thirteen” but Jim Lovell is one of the astronauts portrayed in that movie and Bill Anders, of Apollo VIII took the famous “Earth Rise” photo showing the earth rising on the moon.

model of an old airplaneVery cool! Anything else you’d like to add?
All of these people are heroes. Each one of them deserves a grand e
ntrance and I just wanted to show my thanks to all of them. This is just a small thing I can do to say “thank you” to all of our troops and vets.

Thank you Perry!  It’s been very interesting to hear things explained from one of the people behind the show. We look forward to being there and we are glad that you’ve chosen Runde’s to supply all the cars, vans, SUV’s and our Community Support truck year after year to help with this great show.



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