Great Neighbors: The men behind the fireworks

By Karole Honas, Local News 8 Anchor
POSTED: 03:47 PM MDT Jul 08, 2013    UPDATED: 05:14 PM MDT Jul 08, 2013 

The Fourth of July holiday week is over, and it was an eventful one, thanks to two Great Neighbors.

For two decades, Phil Meador and Frank VanderSloot have shared their patriotism by putting on respective fireworks shows in Pocatello and Idaho Falls. It is amazing that two of the biggest shows in the West occur in our neighborhood 50 miles apart.

"I did the fireworks show in Vancouver, Wash., before I moved here to Idaho Falls,” said VanderSloot. “So that idea got going there, and we came here and learned that people had been doing it for awhile, and we thought we could spice it up a little. And we did.”

Phil Meador said in 1993 he heard about the great show in Idaho Falls.

"Boy, you should have seen all the taillights from Pocatello going up there,” said Meador. “And I thought, doggone it, I think Pocatello deserves a great show.”

Here we are, 20 years later. The Pocatello show has 60 sponsors. One of the biggest is Phil Meador. This year he stepped back a little and turning the show over to others.

"We got involved with the city fathers and commissioners and the Chamber of Commerce," said Meador, "and they've done a marvelous job through a very small committee, actually.”

In Idaho Falls, VanderSloot uses the occasion to top off a big annual meeting with his employees. We all reap the benefits because we all get to enjoy the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration.

"We've tried to make every Fourth of July Melaleuca Freedom Celebration a thank you, a tribute to those who gave their lives … and their families who sacrificed with them," said VanderSloot.

Is there a friendly competition between the two Great Neighbors?

"I respect Phil Meador so much … for what he's done for the community over the years," said VanderSloot. "We hope people support that show. I think without question, Melaleuca sends up more fireworks in the air than any other town or community or fireworks show west of the Mississippi. We make sure it's the largest show just based on the sheer number of shells."

"The Bannock County Fairgrounds is positioned in such a way that our safety line is much greater than many places," countered Meador good-naturedly, "so we can shoot up to 12-inch shells. Idaho Falls has a wonderful show – so I don't want this to sound incorrect – but about an 8 is as far as they can go."

Whether it's more shells, or bigger shells, the shows are awesome. We're lucky to have two such Great Neighbors.