You can say that Danny Spangler and his team at Cahokia did a bang-up job in helping a Customer with a very urgent need during the Fourth of July holiday. J&M Displays puts on a fireworks display that runs three consecutive nights for the St. Louis Fair each year, but this year they ran into some trouble due to flooding occurring on the Mississippi River at that time.
In an average year, the company loads barges with the display materials and then a boat pulls the barges down to the area where the displays are set off. Material Sales is on the St. Louis side of the Mississippi River while the Cahokia Terminal rests on the Sauget, Illinois, side. Material Sales has worked with the team on several projects and called them for assistance when they needed help in making sure the fireworks display could still go on.
Danny Spangler, terminal manager, said, “Cahokia was the only dock in the area that could accommodate the loading and Material Sales suggested that we work together to pull this off. There were several city officials, fire departments, and first responders involved from both St. Louis and Sauget.”
If the Cahokia Terminal said no to the project, the only other option would’ve been to shut down one of the bridges to St. Louis from Illinois. With one bridge already out of service for construction work, that option would’ve caused major traffic issues, if it was even approved.
Material Sales provided their boat and barges, and Cahokia provided the docks. The companies were working on a very tight time frame, with only a week’s notice, and there were several Watco Team Members that played a part in making sure the event went off without a hitch.
Spangler said, “They started setting up the two barges two full days before the first display to get the tubes and racks and everything set up on the barge. On the three days they were shooting off the ordnance (explosives) they would arrive in the afternoon to load up the tubes. Security was on-site to guard the barges for a few hours until the sun went down.”
The management from the fair asked if they could view the display from the Cahokia docks. Because of safety issues Spangler and his team came up with a better solution, they cleared an area on the riverbank and put down rock. Tents and chairs were set up, and grills were brought in to make the event more enjoyable to those wanting to watch the fireworks.
Cameron Murray, St. Louis Fair Board chairman, said, “I just wanted to say thanks for being so helpful for the fireworks over the holiday. Fair management is extremely grateful for the assistance you provided and the work you did to create a comfortable spot for us camp out. We really appreciate the relationship and would like to ensure we maintain it going forward, as the J&M team found loading in from your site more favorable that loading on the MO side. We think there could be a good opportunity to work with Watco again next year.”
As a thank you, the Terminal Team received cups, VIP passes, and parking passes to the fair.
Dave Riggs, commercial manager, said, “Danny and the team did an excellent job in facilitating this project even as they continued to recover from the flood impact at the terminal.”
“It is wonderful to work for a company that allows us the freedom to think outside the box to get a job done. We greatly appreciate the way our Risk Management Team worked with us in a flexible and creative manner to protect our company’s interest while still allowing us to provide an important service to the local community,” added Riggs.
Fireworks also a year-round business in Pittsburg
Although the assistance that the Cahokia Team provided produced more immediate results, another Watco location moves products for the fireworks industry year-round.
The South Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad (SKOL) in Pittsburg, Kansas, delivers plastic resin to Jake’s Fireworks, a leading wholesale distributor of fireworks with more than 400 retail stores across the United States
For several years, plastics were delivered to a site near the distribution center and then trucked over to the location. Five years ago, Jake’s invested in a rail spur to bring the product right to their back door. The material is used to make launch tubes, approximately four million a year, that will go into the artillery kits sold by the company.
Scott Moutz, production manager, said, “The plastic goes into making the safest launch tubes on the market. We get about two cars of the resin each month in order to fill the need for the kits.”
Tom Addison, SKOL trainmaster, said, “We normally keep two cars in the industrial park and the team is on standby to deliver cars to the Customer as needed. They may not be our largest Customer, but each Customer is important, and it’s important to our team to make sure they get the cars they need and help promote the growth of business in Pittsburg. They’re pretty steady, but they do have a couple of seasons when we move more cars in and out.”
Many people only think of the Fourth of July when they think of fireworks, but it’s a yearround business. There are a few locations where New Year’s Eve is the biggest fireworks season of the year. Louisiana is a prime example of this. Sales begin at noon on December 15 and continue through midnight on January 1.
Moutz said, “The business from the Southern states’ New Year’s sales makes up approximately one-fourth of all their sales.”