Steamboat fireworks guru Tim Borden makes pumpkins go boom

Behind the story What started out as a fairly simple idea grew into a large project. Tim Borden secured permissions from the Routt County Sheriff’s Office, Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue and emergency dispatchers to blow up the pumpkins. Approval was also received from Steamboat Springs Airport, and pilots were notified that a drone was going to be flying in the airport’s flight path. Five cameras were used to shoot the experiment, and two near the blast zone were protected behind plexiglass. A camera 100 feet away shot at 96 frames for high-quality slow motion video. A Phantom 4 drone flown by licensed pilot Dan Tullos with Mountain Home Photography was used for aerials, and an iPhone was used for b-roll. With so many cameras being used, editing the four-minute video that accompanied this article took about 30 hours.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — This month, I found myself on a mission to blow up my gigantic pumpkin.

Purchased from Walmart for $4, it weighed in at 65 pounds. It was huge and needed to be disposed of creatively.

After I failed to blow it up using a rather large firework in the Butcherknife Brewing Company parking lot, I called up Steamboat’s firework guru Tim Borden.

Borden and Yampa Valley Bank have been donating the fireworks and putting on the show for the Winter Carnival Night Extravaganza for several years.

Borden, who’s been working with fireworks for 20 years, and his business partner John Adams once even bought the town of Lay, Colorado, in order to obtain a federal license to manufacture fireworks.

He got excited when I told him what I wanted him to do to my pumpkin.

“How could a guy like me pass up an opportunity like that?” Borden said.

When Borden gets an idea in his head, expect it to keep growing.

His fireworks shows over the years have increased in scale. In February, he launched a 48-inch shell, which is believed to be the biggest one ever launched in North America.

Rather than focusing on just my giant pumpkin, Borden asked me to secure more pumpkins, which I did thanks to the generosity of the Dream Island Mobile Home Park.

Launch day was Monday, and a small crowd of Borden’s family and friends gathered to watch.

Borden had never blown up pumpkins, and he consulted with folks he knows in the pyrotechnic community. They told him to not use firework shells. Their advice ultimately proved to be wrong.

Inside the pumpkins, Borden placed a military-grade black powder that is powerful enough to launch a shell hundreds of feet in the air.

“It’s a special black powder you can’t get,” Borden said.

Inside pumpkin, he inserted a 3-inch fireworks shell.

“If anything, I think we have more than enough explosive,” Borden said.

At a safe distance of 100 feet away, Borden pushed the trigger. The blast proved to be a little lackluster, and you could tell Borden was disappointed.

He then went right for the 65-pounder, and that one did not disappoint.

It disintegrated the pumpkin, sending shards over the spectators and one chunk within feet of the drone flying overhead.

“I know what I need to do,” Borden said.

Borden was going to repeat exactly what he did with my huge pumpkin by inserting three-inch shells.
The rest of the experiment was a huge success.

A successful business owner, an alumnus of the U.S. Olympic bobsled team and a former co-owner of the Denver Broncos, Borden, on Monday, was simply a man who was proud to have successfully blown up some huge pumpkins in a hayfield.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

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