‘Ick’ McCurry memorialized in fireworks display he helped plan

Dave Marner
Managing Editor

With “love on our hearts” on Saturday evening, Rosebud Mayor Shannon Grus posthumously named John Derick McCurry as the community’s Citizen of the Year as she presented the honor to his surviving siblings.

Known simply as “Ick” to many, McCurry died in late 2018 following an extended illness. He had been a prior cancer survivor. His legacy, Grus told the crowd at Rosebud Community Park, would continue through the fireworks celebrations he orchestrated for several years — first in his own backyard and then at the park.

“With tears in our eyes and love in our hearts, the City of Rosebud is proud to announce that they have selected Derick McCurry as the ‘Citizen of the Year,’” Grus told the crowd. “The man who started our annual Fireworks Celebration. We love and miss you Ick. This show’s for you.”

Then, noting McCurry’s usual saying to the volunteer launch crew members before the shows began, Grus asked the crowd, “are you ready?”

That saying became the logo for t-shirts being sold at the fireworks celebration. Proceeds will go toward fireworks for the 2020 show, said Grus.

The show will go on, she said emphatically. Thousands attend.

Friends in the launch crew would tell later of finding a launch sequence he put together for the show they would put on that evening. It also included a list of some of his favorite aerial displays. It was in a binder at his home along with lists of prior donors to the shows put on entirely through donations.

“It’s going to be loud,” said Mark Linhardt as final preparations for the show were being made. “It’s a tribute to Ick. It’s going to be really loud.”

Their friend had left them a script for the show he knew he would not live to see.

Perhaps it was fitting that when the launch crew gathered for a prayer as dusk approached, a park neighbor lit off a string of several thousand firecrackers. James Meyer, who gathered with the launchers — dressed in safety yellow “Staff” t-shirts  — to offer the prayer, waited for a thousand or two of the poppers to go off across the street, then started in with his offering. It was barely audible over the fireworks noise.

Several of the launch crew members laughed at how appropriate that might have been. “Ick would have appreciated that,” one crew member said.

One of McCurry’s favorite parts of the celebration, recalled Kelly Kuhrts and Steve Adams at different points during the evening, was the candy mortar tube which they use to launch treats for the children.

The only problem, said Adams, was no one could remember the measurement of gunpowder to use on either the smaller and larger tubes.

“As many years as I helped Ick with that, I didn’t remember,” said Adams. “I’m sorry. I guess I missed that part.”

Adams said he can’t ever recall actually asking McCurry how much powder he was using.

Over the course of the evening, Adams and Kuhrts would share stories of the “trial and error” attempts other crew members tried using “shelled corn and Old Roy” dog food to mimic the candy.

The first couple of attempts lifted the corn and dog food only a couple inches out of the tube. As the measure of powder increased, the dog food and corn lifted a couple of feet above the metal tubes.

The correct measurements turned out to be 175 grams of gunpowder for the smaller tube and 300 grams for the larger one.

Kuhrts, a member of the launch crew and a Rosebud alderman, called his long-time friend McCurry the “heart and soul” of this community celebration.

This year’s show which McCurry helped line out before his death timed out at 27 minutes and 9 seconds.

There was one relatively minor mishap during the show when a box filled with a hundred projectiles apparently split apart, launching its contents into the protective plywood barrier wall the launch crew assembled starting on July 4. Afterward, a small fire was extinguished on one of the four flatbed trailers loaned out for the show.

“Best 27-minute show you’ll see,” said Doug Bauer afterward. 

Launch crew members held a de-briefing afterward, enjoying refreshments served out of metal buckets. They agreed they would have a few more fire extinguishers on hand next year. They would examine creating a couple more openings for staff escape exits from between the wall-off front launching areas.

Everyone agreed — the display will be bigger — and louder. 

Ick would want it that way.