LAPORTE | LaPorte County officials have agreed to close an airport runway and a state highway to bring back a week-long public display of powerful fireworks.
The Pyrotechnics Guild International has scheduled LaPorte for its 2016 convention, but organization's decision to return was initially up in the air.
Losing the convention would have meant a loss of million of dollars for the local economy "we don't normally get," said LaPorte County Commissioner Dave Decker.
To make it happen, the convention will be relocated from the LaPorte County Fairgrounds, where tens of thousands attended in 2012, to a field across Ind. 2 from the fairgrounds.
A recently opened work release center was built too close to the fireworks staging area, forcing the move.
Decker said portable bleachers from the fairgrounds will be relocated to the new launching site.
Members of the PGI will still camp and store their supplies at the fairgrounds.
Ind. 2 will be closed during the convention as a precaution because fireworks and other explosives used to make fireworks on site will have to be moved across the two-lane highway to the new launching site due to state regulations.
"The highway area has to be detoured around for us to make it reasonable for the explosives to cross that road," said Dan Creagan, president of the Lansing, Mich.-based PGI.
The new site also is in the flight pattern for LaPorte Muncipal Airport along Ind. 39 and one of the runways will be closed while the fireworks are shot off. Planes will be redirected to the other remaining runaway, said Decker.
Creagan said the adjustments, the positive response from the community to the last convention and LaPorte's desire to host it again were factors in coming back.
"If they want us there and we want to get there we try to make it happen," said Creagan.
No date has been set for the 2016 convention, but Creagan said it would be held sometime during the first half of August.