‘Boomtown’ documentary gets colorful response

SUQUAMISH — Just in time for the years’ biggest firework holiday, the North Kitsap community got a chance to glimpse inside the Suquamish Tribe’s firework industry.

Last Tuesday, Seattle’s Public Broadcasting Station, KCTS, hosted its first screening of the explosive documentary, “Boomtown.” The film gives insight and details about the fireworks season within the Suquamish Tribe.

Directed by Bryan Gunnar Cole, a 1983 graduate of Bainbridge High School, the film follows Bennie Armstrong, of Bennie’s Jets on Highway 305, and other Port Madison Reservation firework stand owners.

Starting with the summer of 1999, Cole traces the behind-the-scenes work that owners put into their stands and through the trials and triumphs of the season for two years.

Cole explored every angle, from ordering to receiving, counting inventory, putting up signs for the stands and getting everyone involved to the night watchmen, talkin’ business, the anticipation of the sales from the beginning to the big day, the small guys, the big frys and the family histories. Not a lot of numbers are mentioned regarding how much one stand makes versus another, but the documentary does explore the culture of the tribe and the personal side of the business over the past 30 years.

The quirks of the industry gives the film its personal touch.

The sentimental value of the signs that Armstrong refuses to get throw away. The colorful triangle flag banners that are older than his kids.

The stand owners and their day jobs.

The extra income that helps increase financial security.

A sense of family within the business.

The “2nd of July nerves” as the newer stands struggle and become frustrated with slow sales.

The anticipation of the monetary satisfaction that doesn’t really pay off until the week before and the day of July 4th.

For Cole, the crowd’s response was very pleasing.

“(The audience) was way more receptive that I thought it would be,” Cole said. “I was really excited, not only over the number people that came but how warm they were towards the film. I prayed over this tape, literally prayed, hoping people would like it.”

Brook Thompson of Bainbridge Island said it changed her perception of the area.

“I think its wonderful. It captures the spirit of the Suquamish,” Thompson said. “I sit on Bainbridge Island and I hear it coming, but seeing this makes me feel better about the fireworks.”

One tribe member was moved by the way the tribe was portrayed.

“I think it was very spiritual as far as seeing the true Native Americans,” said Trisha Ives, Armstrong’s niece.

The documentary will be broadcast nationwide on July 2 at 10 p.m. on PBS as part of the channel’s P.O.V. summer series. The series is television’s first and longest-running national series, showing independent, non-fiction films.

With the stands coming down to the final weekend before the holiday, the formula follows as sales are still slow but stand owners are expecting a big boost this weekend.

“I think people are kind of holding onto their money,” said Georgia George, of Georgia and Brad George’s Fireworks. “Then it’s going to be a full blown smash.”

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