To say Mike Cassling is celebrating with fireworks is an understatement.
Family, friends and co-workers alike know about his love of pyrotechnics. It all started as a kid with Fourth of July celebrations and bottle rockets.
“Who doesn’t love bottle rockets?” Mike asked.
As a family of three boys, the Cassling brothers chose bottle rockets as a weapon of choice, shooting them at each other from close range. Which is exactly why healthcare professionals do not like fireworks. I don’t blame them. Statistics indicate more than 7,000 adults and children went to the emergency room with fireworks-related injuries between June 18 and July 18 of 2016.
Lucky for Mike, no one lost an eye or any digits during their celebration. When asked about his biggest casualty when it comes to the “sport” of lighting off fireworks, he recalls his family’s boat dock at Lake Okoboji (There is also a story that involves a mailbox, but Mike wouldn’t let me tell that one.)
“It was tradition to spend Fourth of July at the lake. My Dad had just put in a brand-new dock. It was the perfect spot for my very large cardboard box of fireworks. I worked hard to get those fireworks. I drove 90 miles to get “the good stuff” from Missouri and then drove 90 miles back home. Everyone back in the day drove across state lines, which I think is illegal. But we all did it.
“So, I stood proudly by my box anxiously waiting until dark. Because you must wait until it’s pitch black. Then I walked out to the beach and lit a few Roman Candles, then ran back to the very large cardboard box to reload. I hadn’t really thought of covering the box to protect my grand stash from any stray sparks.
“I’m sure you can picture what happened next. A barrage of fireworks suddenly and randomly exploded simultaneously from inside that box on that boat dock. It was a very dramatic scene that caused a lot of commotion. I was very upset; after all, my fireworks were supposed to last at least 60 minutes and it was all over in less than 5. Not exactly what I drove 180 miles to accomplish. So naturally I was upset.
“After the smoke and debris settled, I soon realized that what I really should be upset about was the brand-new hole in the brand-new dock. A very large hole in the very place where the very large box from Missouri once was.”
Now fast forward to Mike Cassling at age 50, serving as CEO of his family business, aptly named Cassling. Co-workers tell a different story of Mike, fireworks and misadventure.
During an annual recognition trip for Cassling’s top salespeople, the hotel where they were staying hired a local company to plan and launch a professional-grade fireworks show.
The Saturday evening festivities started with awards to honor each person’s efforts. About 500 feet down the beach, the final touches of the fireworks show were in progress. Palm trees were blowing in the wind.
As the sun set and darkness fell, the local company set off a spectacular display of pyrotechnics. And the wind blew harder.
As is common in hot, dry climates, the hotel’s restaurant was an open-air design with a thatch roof. With just one spark, that thatch roof caught fire and very quickly spread. You can ask Dan Olsen or Andy Beer for the video.
The good news is not a single person was harmed by the restaurant fire. By the next morning, hotel staff and local construction crews had re-assembled the restaurant and it was open for breakfast.
To this day, we still honor our top performers with a rewards trip and fireworks finale-- but only when there is a calm breeze under five miles per hour.
“Don’t learn these lessons the hard way. I share these stories so you can learn from them. Wind is a serious factor to consider. According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year. I hope you have a blast celebrating America’s independence and always remain safe.” – Mike Cassling