Quay County skies light up for the Fourth

By Chelle Delaney:

Phillip Griggs can light up your night — especially on the Fourth of July.

Griggs is chairman of the fireworks committee at the Elks Lodge on South First Street.

“I’ve been involved in this for years. This will be my 15th year,” he said.

He’s been chairman of the fireworks committee for the past three years, serves as a trustee for and is a past president of the Elks.

His real job is with the Arch Hurley Conservancy as a ditch rider. He makes sure farmers and ranchers have water for their livestock and to irrigate their crops. It’s a job that often means he starts his workday at 3:30 a.m.

But for one particular night a year, Griggs shortens his beauty rest to make sure the Elks Club fireworks extravaganza for Tucumcari comes off without a hitch.

“Twelve other men help,” he said. Specialized equipment includes four 30-gallon galvanized trash cans. Admittedly, it is not high-tech, but “the trash cans give us protection, and it also offers protection for the fireworks if it rains,” he said.

More than 600 shots were scheduled to be fired on Tuesday night.

After all these years of helping to light up the night, what do his fans say?

Of course, kids and grown-ups alike go for the big splashy, showery bursts, “but they also seem to like the salutes just as much. They are the one that just make a big boom and no burst.”

Six-year-old Ryan Lumpkin Warner said, “The fireworks looked like explosives. They make the car shake.”
His favorites were the “blue ones that spread out.” But other things came to mind, too. “It looked like space ships crashing into each other.”

Nine-year-old Karina Herrera was experiencing her first fireworks display. She stayed closed to her mom. Although she was all smiles, she said, “They’re scary.”

Prior to show time, the explosives are kept in a safe, locked place. In fact, Griggs didn’t even have the key to the safe room for the explosives. They are kept by another member of the Lodge.

Safety is a big factor, Griggs said. In coordination with Tucumcari Fire Chief Mike Cherry, fire trucks and other vehicles were to be stationed throughout the city, as well as near the Elks Lodge itself, Griggs said.

“We have five vehicles that come in from the rural stations and some city fire trucks” that are stationed on or near the Elks Lodge.

“There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that people aren’t aware of,” Griggs said.