A fireworks show like never before

Joyce L. Miller
Premier Pyrotechnics is organizing the show, the same company that puts on displays at Bear Bottom Resort during the summer.

It's going to be impossible to miss ... six barges loaded with 12,000 individual shells set up to simultaneously shower the Lake of the Ozarks with a fireworks display the likes of which has never  attempted here before. The guy in charge of putting it all together, well, he is beyond excited. 

So excited, in fact, he can't wait for the sun to go down on Aug. 10. At 9:45 p.m. sharp, Matt Sutcliffe and a crew of about 30 technicians will orchestrate the largest fireworks display in Lake of the Ozarks history. That's saying something for a place that puts on some of the best shows in the Midwest. 

All in celebration of Missouri's Bicentennial, the 90th anniversary of Bagnell Dam and, last but certainly in his case not least, his grandmother's 94th birthday. 

"What's not to celebrate? I am a Missouri native and there's no better place to do it than here at the lake," Sutcliffe said. "This is a dream. I am beyond excited and can't wait for people to enjoy the display we are going to be putting on. Imagine seeing all these shells exploding above the lake, it's the biggest dam bash fireworks show of this magnitude in terms of show and scope. It's going to be a monster. Big and beautiful." 

The fireworks will literally be visible over the entire lake. You can view by water or by land. 

Preparations for the show have been in the works for weeks. Final set up will begin about 72 hours ahead of the show on Sunday when technicians from all over the country arrive to help get everything lined out and synchronized. 

A show along the lines of what is planned at Lake of the Ozarks takes months of planning and coordination. For Sutcliffe, the owner of Premier Pyrotechnics and Bear Bottom Resort, it's a chance to bring together his two passions, fireworks and being part of the Lake of the Ozarks community.

The show is what is referred to as a pyro musical, with a carefully choreographed show with the music set to a soundtrack. Viewers can tune into to 93.5 FM to listen. Each barge is tied to the broadcast. Each barge will simultaneously fire the same shells so identical displays will be viewed in six different locations at the same time. 

"The sheer geography of the area involved is something," he said. "And each location offers an incredible aesthetic for viewing. The sky if literally going to light up the lake. And my grandmother will be here at the resort to watch and celebrate her birthday, too. It's amazing to think that she has been here for almost 100 years of our state's history." 

Being a fireworks fanatic is nothing new for Sutcliffe. At an early age, he managed to convince his parents to let him sell fireworks from a tent in their front yard to earn money to buy fireworks for his personal use. Eventually he graduated from the small tent in the front yard to a bigger tent in town to raise money for his high school band. By the time Sutcliffe was 21, he was ready to go into business on his own. 

With a background in radio broadcast and sound, that was the start of a career in pyrotechnics and Premier Pyrotechnics. 

Life at the lake is a perfect mix for Sutcliffe working on shows for Premier, running the resort and enjoying the displays he puts on at Bear Bottom throughout the summer. 

Sutcliffe said the idea for this show started during a discussion of several lake area businesses not long before the COVID pandemic took over everyone's lives. 

The show is made possible through donations and the help of a couple of businesses. The barges were the most important part of the plan and a couple of businesses came through in a big way, he said. Rough Water Docks, and Margaritaville Resort/Tan-Tar-A each provided one barge. One Source Services threw in four barges and captains to get them in place. 

"Thanks to them we are able to have these six locations," he said. "This is a show you don't want to miss. We are going to cover the entire lake."

Barges will be located at these locations

Fireworks and broadcast set to start at 9:45 pm

13-mile marker Lodge of Four Seasons 

26-mile marker Margaritaville Resort 

34-mile marker Captain Ron's 

38-mile marker Bear Bottom Resort 

42-mile marker One Source Supply 

10-mile marker Bridal Cave on the Niangua Arm