The genesis of NLP is most logically traced back to Max P Vander Horck, a venerable figure in fireworks history. Max was the publisher of American Pyrotechnist (AP) which at the time was a highly regarded newsletter for people interested in the art and science of fireworks. In 1969, he called for the formation of an international fireworks organization which resulted in the Pyrotechnics Guild International (please refer to the PGI link for more information). His call for organization was instrumental in the historical impetus of many regional clubs as well which include the Northern Lighters, the Cracker Jacks and many others. While there has been some lively debate as to which organization was first (depending on how you define first), we all have settled into a semblance of a dignified middle age and mutual respect.
To return the focus to the NLP history, Max noted that many of his subscribers came from Minnesota. He suggested that they get together, form a club and he also suggested a name: Northern Lighters. Many of the subscribers had already met each other and, indeed, two had gone to high school together. Ah, for the days when high school science labs actually experimented!
A fellowship of informal gatherings began and our roots were being planted for a few years as our founders met, shared ideas, learned from each other and began to shoot shows for local events. Instrumental in the early years were Jack Leonard (PGI) for good advice and the original charter year members who included Donald Harder, Kimball Orwoll, Dave Penshorn, Robert apJones, Brian “The Blaster Pastor” Bergin, Stewart Heitkamp, Ruby Ballard, Dean Peterson, Scott Emkovik, Chuck Gardas, Garry Hanson and Georgia Martinson (my apologies if I forgot any names). And so the NLP formally chartered in 1977 as a not-for-profit corporation in Minnesota.
Brian served as the first president and we have existed in the same form ever since. Over the years, the NLP has provided the foundation for numerous talented individuals to advance their skills and we proudly note that our membership has included many of the most accomplished shell builders and display operators in the United States. Our members have also been instrumental in hosting five PGI conventions and we have performed hundreds of public fireworks displays.
Today we remain an active and diverse organization hovering right around 100 members. All of our members are volunteers and come from all walks of professional life as well as a wide variety of pyrotechnic backgrounds. The unique aspect of the NLP is that we are and will remain a volunteer driven non-profit corporation supporting the positive and creative use of fireworks. Our members annually enjoy multiple private events which focus on training, building, creating new and unusual firework effects in the fellowship of being with people who enjoy fireworks. And we perform multiple public displays ranging from intimate performances to the traditional large scale display commonly seen on the 4th of July. In all cases, our membership enjoys the benefit of highly experienced individuals mentoring our newer members who are learning the art and science associated with pyrotechnics.
We are people who like to talk about fireworks, build fireworks, shoot fireworks and enjoy seeing the talent and creative energy that is associated with the safe use of fireworks.
We are the Northern Lighters.