Willie Simmons of Fincastle has been responsible for the acquisition and the setting off of the fireworks for Fincastle’s annual Fourth of July fireworks display since 1998. This past July 4 marked his 21st and final year coordinating the display.
He took over the firework-related duties following the death of his wife Brenda’s father, who had been acquiring and setting off the fireworks since the early 1990s. Before taking over the responsibilities, he assisted her father.
When asked why he has decided to retire from the tradition, Willie said that “it’s just time.”
“My father used to say that he had nothing that he had to do. He didn’t belong to any clubs. The only thing was church, so he could go if he wanted to but didn’t have to,” Simmons said. “I thought what a great goal in life to have— no responsibilities.”
Willie noted that the fireworks display has gotten significantly bigger over the years. “More money has come in so we’re able to buy more stuff,” he said.
Every year he travels to Tennessee to purchase the fireworks.
Willie also said that the licensing and insurance requirements to put on the display have gotten more complicated over the years.
Kevin and Daryl Hix, who have assisted Willie with the fireworks display in years past, have agreed to continue the tradition.
Brenda explained that a member of the Fincastle Town Council decided that “he wanted more activities in the town to involve the community,” which prompted the establishment of the annual tradition. The town’s Halloween activities were also part of the effort to provide more activities for community members.
“It’s great because it’s not taxpayer money. It all comes from community donations,” Willie said of the fireworks display. “It’s a community event.”
Brenda said that she believes that the reason why locals view the fireworks display as such a cherished tradition is because it allows them the ability to celebrate the Fourth of July without having to drive a long distance.
“I’ve been told by some people that it’s like a 20-minute grand finale,” Willie said of the display.
He and Brenda were also involved in the town’s Christmas lights display for 20 years.