A History Lesson With Atlas

Hello family and friends! With the summer finally upon us, we are excited for the busy and amazingly fun season ahead. As some of you know, the Atlas PyroVision Entertainment Group will soon celebrate 67 glorious years in business. We’d like to use this opportunity to take a trip down memory lane to where it all started and also share our evolution over the past six-plus decades.

The following history was written by our amazing CEO, Stephen T. Pelkey, who has 31 years of experience in the fireworks industry. He wrote this accelerated history of Atlas, known by many as New England’s oldest and largest fireworks company based in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. So sit back, relax and join us for a history lesson with Atlas. In addition, you can see this write-up in our forthcoming Jaffrey Festival of Fireworks 25th Anniversary Program Book coming out this August. Register for this show now.

From the pen of Stephen T. Pelkey, CEO:

Home of New England’s largest fireworks display company, we are the Atlas PyroVision Entertainment Group.  For over 67 years, Atlas has provided pyrotechnic entertainment for local communities throughout New England and performed in numerous international competitions from Canada, China, France, Philippines, Spain and the United States.  The City of Montreal, originally called Ville Marie, or “City of Mary”, named after Mount Royal is host to the world’s largest and most prestigious international fireworks competition, L’International des Feux Loto-Quebec at Six Flags.  Each year, 8 to 10 of the very best pyrotechnic artists and companies are invited to compete for the coveted Gold Jupiter Award. In 2012 Atlas PyroVision was awarded the top prize for best pyromusical!

Atlas Display Fireworks began in 1949 by William Anderson who brought his passion for fireworks from the “coal country” of Pennsylvania to Jaffrey, NH; Anderson’s wife, Lillian (LaFreniere) Anderson, was a local native.  Along the way were other masters of the pyrotechnic craft that helped shape the early years of the Atlas Fireworks Company.  Among the pyrotechnic artisans who relocated to Jaffrey were the families of Dominic Speeney and Harvey Hanan.  Speeney worked as a shell builder with a large Pennsylvania fireworks company, Keystone Fireworks while his brother-in-law Harvey Hanan worked in the coal industry. Anderson convinced Speeney and Hanan that Jaffrey would be the home of Atlas Display Fireworks with new and exciting opportunities. They would later join other family members from Jaffrey including Lillian’s brothers, Herve Gautier and Frances LaFreniere. Many of those early years would be challenging, competing against some larger and more established companies already in the northern New England area such as Grucci, Interstate, Rockingham and Zambelli Fireworks.

After William Anderson’s death in 1959, Lillian continued to run Atlas until her brother, Francis LaFreniere took over the business in 1965.  Francis continued as owner until 1979, when local resident and businessman Robert Korpi purchased the company from the LaFreniere family.  Atlas Display Fireworks continued as a manufacturer and display company and expanded into the retail and wholesale sales of consumer fireworks.  Korpi’s son-in-law, Stephen Pelkey also a native of Jaffrey, was hired after his enlistment with the United States Air Force in early 1986 as General Manager.  Pelkey spent the next four years working through many of the insurance and regulatory challenges facing the fireworks industry.  In 1987 Pelkey convinced Korpi to discontinue the Atlas manufacturing operations and to focus on display design which would provide the company with a wider variety of quality fireworks from domestic manufacturers and factories from China and Japan.  With so much business turmoil in real estate and banking in the late 1980’s, Korpi would ultimately file bankruptcy unrelated to the fireworks company. In February 1990, Pelkey established a new company, Atlas Advanced Pyrotechnics and took on a local well-known partner, DD Bean and Sons.  This partnership was very effective as it allowed Atlas to expand into retail stores and broaden its technological capacity with automated and electronic firing systems.  Pelkey worked closely with DD Bean management; Delcie and Mark Bean, Alan Leach and Steve Krause.  After 5 years of continued growth, Pelkey in 1995 bought out of the partnership with DD Bean and further developed Atlas as a pyrotechnic entertainment company.  In 1997 Atlas was awarded a multi-year contract to produce the 4th of July display for the nation’s capital in Washington DC and later the Boston Pops Goes the Fourth and New Year’s Eve displays.

With major celebrations continuing throughout New England and well into the Millennium, Atlas grew from a small town fireworks company to an internationally known pyrotechnic entertainment group providing World Class displays from Boston to DC, Canada, Europe and Asia.  Broadening their capacity in pyrotechnic entertainment, Atlas expanded their retail outlets for consumer sales and developed their special effects division performing in major indoor and outdoor venues including the Boston TD Garden, Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium as well as many global corporate clients.

Today, Atlas continues the tradition of giving back to their community by producing the annual Festival of Fireworks.  For a quarter century, Atlas has designed and produced the festival to further their artistry and techniques in computerized electronic firing.  This continues today as they celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Jaffrey Festival of Fireworks.  Atlas and the Pelkey family would like to thank their friends, employees, volunteers and fans of fireworks for the amazing opportunity to showcase their staff of talented pyrotechnic artists. On August 20, 2016, the Atlas PyroVision Entertainment Group presents to you a one of a kind pyromusical experience ~ “Small Town…Big Dreams!”    ~Stephen T. Pelkey, CEO

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