QMIX Musical Fireworks patriotically paints the sky

Against a darkened summer sky, Perla Solis wanted to watch bursts of holiday hue Friday night at her first-ever professional fireworks display. 

“I want to see all the pretty colors,” Solis said. 

By the time that “Columbus Regional Health Presents: QMIX Musical Fireworks XXXII: Sparks Will Fly” shot into stratosphere at AirPark Columbus, rockin’ rocketman David Maschino of Iowa’s J&M Displays made Solis’ night — and made good on an earlier promise to “paint the sky,” as he put it, with everything from sprays to shimmers. 

And Maschino did it all accompanied by a 22-minute QMIX 107.3 FM Radio mixtape, if you will, of pop-rock acts ranging from newer artists such as Dua Lipa (“Levitating”) to more classic performers such as the late George Michael (“Freedom”). And, in between were favorites such as Seymour native John Mellencamp (“Small Town”) and Lee Greenwood (“God Bless the USA”), whose music has been featured at the event maybe more than any other singer. 

Mike Wolanin | The Republic
Zeppelin Davis blows bubbles during QMIX Musical Fireworks in Columbus, Ind., Friday, July 1, 2022.

In a creative twist this year, a recording of the Columbus Indiana Children’s Choir crooning an artfully done a cappella version of the National Anthem preceded the pop-rock track and gave the phrase “bombs bursting in air” a whole new meaning. 

The annual extravaganza to mark July 4 has long been the largest single-day event in Bartholomew County, with people even parking along roads a mile or more away to watch organizers light up the night. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic the past two years, this marked the first time since 2019 that the gathering unfolded in full force with a grand lineup of food trucks serving steak, tacos, ice cream, pizza, you name it spread along a corner of the campus of Ivy Tech Community College on Central Avenue. People attending the festivities brought lawn chairs, picnic baskets, sparklers and more to celebrate. 

To help them do so, vendors such as Jeremy Crouch of Gamma Ray Lights from Beech Grove hawked all things stars-and-stripes: children’s masks, bubble guns, lights, and more. Over the past 20 years at the event, he normally has sold out of everything before the last snap, crackle and pyrotechnic pop. 

“So I brought even more this year,” Crouch said. 

At the Don Chuy Taco Truck that normally parks at nearby Camp Atterbury, burritos were the top-selling item with a crowd that seemed intent on eating while walking. 

“They’re popular because they’re very big and very tasty,” said the truck’s Rose Bonilla. 

Others came intent on letting youngsters bounce seemingly as high as a firework or two amid a row of children’s inflatables. Kelley Stillabower was thinking precisely that with 10-year-old daughter Zoe McDonald, springing this way and that as mom watched. They planned to catch the fireworks at home right near the airpark just a short distance away. 

“We can see everything clearly,” Stillabower said, “right from our back yard.” 

Pretty colors and all.