NCI: Convention Updates from AJ

Posted by: AJ Burns | Friday March 1, 2019

Updates from AJ Burns

North Central Industries, Inc. belongs to several organizations in order to stay on the leading edge of our industry. Attending these organization’s annual and sometimes bi-annual conventions is one critical facet of our business. NCI encourages all of our customers to stay up to date with Fireworks Industry news and these conventions are a great way to do so.

Let’s start with the National Fireworks Association, or NFA. The NFA Convention that takes place in early September each year allows NCI and Great Grizzly Fireworks to connect face to face with you, our customers. The NFA gives us the ability to showcase our current products, new items in production, and most importantly the services NCI is able to provide. During the four day trade show we meet and greet with over 80 customers, current and new alike. In addition to these meetings, NCI staff has the unique opportunity to meet with our suppliers from China. This week allows NCI to continually grow important partnerships with the Chinese manufacturers and suppliers. As the landscape for fireworks production in China continues to become more restricted and challenging, NCI works especially hard during NFA to meet with as many industry leaders as possible.

Throughout the week, the Chinese suppliers and American import companies shoot demos each night that give us a first-hand look at the latest and greatest offering in consumer fireworks. When NCI decides to order new products there is a good chance, we saw it first at NFA. The week is capped with an amazing Grand Public Display that is always a showcase of 1.3 Display and 1.4 Consumer fireworks.

During the NFA Convention there are multiple seminars that provide important updates to our staff that keep us in the know for the upcoming seasons. These updates can include changes in DOT regulations, CPSC testing compliancy, sales training, and the recent hot topic, the metal powders ban. This article, however, will not dive into the depths of that debate. If you have previously attended or are interested in attending an NFA Convention, you are in luck. The NFA has announced their 1st ever Spring NFA Showcase being held in Columbus Georgia. This showcase will take place March 6th – 9th. NCI’s Georgia distribution center is located two short hours from Columbus, let us know if you plan to attend the Spring Showcase and we’d be happy to give you the grand tour. NCI will also be shooting a demo during the Spring Showcase, our 1st time ever shooting at the NFA Convention!


For more information on the NFA and conventions, visit

The APA, or American Pyrotechnics Association, hosts their fall convention in October each year. The APA acts as an ambassador to the State and Federal levels of government for the fireworks industry as a whole. The board members routinely work with government officials to promote and protect our industry. They play a crucial role in helping states establish fireworks laws and regulations to promote safety and the proper use of fireworks. The APA membership is made up of Consumer Firework Importers, Wholesalers and Retailers, 1.3G Professional Display Companies, and Proximate Fireworks companies. In addition to the fireworks companies several other industries are represented as well, such as; insurance companies, shipping and freight brokers, pyro novelties, and display firing systems.

During the week-long convention, members are fortunate to attend numerous seminars that provide key information about the current and future happenings in global fireworks. Seminars include:

DOT Hazmat Training General Information Sessions with guest keynote speakers

NGAP (Next Generation) AFSL (American Fireworks Standards Laboratory)

CPSC Regulation Updates APA Standards 87-1 Classification Updates

The NGAP Committee’s members, a sub-committee of APA, hosts a team building exercise that allows up and coming members of the industry to work together to accomplish a goal. This year’s exercise was an escape room in which Kurt, Steven, and AJ successfully escaped in the allotted time. Events like this have fostered the development of such foundations as APSEF. The American Pyrotechnics Safety and Education Foundation was created by members of the NGAP in order to promote the education and safety of fireworks. The APSEF has raised money since its inception and worked to develop curriculum that can be taught in schools across the country. The curriculum is based around fireworks and touches numerous subjects such as history, science, and chemistry. For more information, including the curriculum digital text books, visit

The third convention that NCI and Great Grizzly Fireworks attend is the PGI (Pyrotechnics Guild International). The PGI takes place in August and is hosted in a different locations across the country. As many of you have read in past newsletters, Steven and I decided on short notice to attend Fargo, North Dakota in 2017. After only three days of membership to the PGI, we were hooked. Fargo led to many conversations in late 2017 and ultimately, I was offered, and accepted the position of Class C Vending Chairman. NCI and Great Grizzly attended the 2018 Mason City, Iowa Convention as a vending company for its first time ever. The Class C Vending area offers a unique opportunity for members to purchase and shoot fireworks on site every night of the convention.

The guild is comprised of fireworks enthusiast from all corners of the world. During convention you will meet some of the best fireworks builders on the planet. In the manufacturing area you can watch rockets, ball shells, cylinder shells, lance work, and my personal favorite girandolas being built by hand. If you are lucky enough, you may even be invited to help construct a firework that will be shot that same day. A special group of members that make PGI magical is the All Stars group. The pyro technicians that are responsible for world record shells and effects. From 650-pound fuel bombs that erupt over 200 feet in the air, over 1.2 million firecrackers ignited at once, to the guys that build and shoot the Guinness Book of World Records 60-inch mortar shells. Soon attempting to build and shoot a 62-inch shell!

PGI also offers workshops which allow members to learn, build, and shoot their own fireworks. Multiple classes are instructed each day to give members the chance to explore all areas of fireworks production. Throughout the week long convention, you will have the opportunity to network with firework enthusiast of all ages and backgrounds. I highly recommend joining the PGI and its family atmosphere in more ways than one. The JPA, (Junior Pyrotechnics Association) a sub group of the PGI invites all pyros between the ages of 6-17 years old to join. The JPA helps the next generation learn about safety, manufacturing, and they even shoot a professional show during the week. To learn more about the PGI, and how to become a member, visit

NCI and Great Grizzly Fireworks work year-round to bring you the best of the best. Once the 4th of July season is over, we take a much-needed breather and go back to work. It is our mission to help create the memories that last your family a life time.


One of my fondest memories is picking out all the roman candles that I would fuse together to make a giant roman candle battery. It took many long hours of prep work and sometimes a little blood and sweat. But the moment I got to light and watch my creation…magic.



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