Steamboat Springs Like a combat pilot, Steve Oliver selects his weapon in midair, waits for the right moment and with the push of a button launches a fiery round into the night sky.
But Oliver's mission is to thrill, not kill.
Oliver, an aerobatic air show pilot who specializes in night shows using pyrotechnics, is set to wow the throng of spectators who will be gathered at Sunday's 40th Anniversary Community-Wide Celebration in Gondola Square.
"(Night shows) are just another way of sharing magic with the crowd," Oliver said Friday, moments before taking off from Bob Adams Field in his midnight blue plane to skywrite "Happy 40th" in the skies above Steamboat Springs.
Oliver and his wife, Suzanne, perhaps better known as the Pepsi Aerial Entertainers, work nine months a year, performing at air shows and events around the country.
Performing in Steamboat is more fun than work, Steve Oliver said.
"This is our favorite place to ski," he said. The couple has many local friends and usually spends the Christmas and New Year's holidays in Steamboat.
Jim "Moose" Barrows, a friend of the Oliver's, figured the Olivers' aerial act would work well with the ski area's anniversary celebration.
"Flying and skiing have a lot in common, and (Moose) knew it would work good with the celebration," Steve Oliver said.
Oliver's six-minute night show will feature a wide variety of custom-made fireworks launched from a "belly box" fixed to his plane, as well as sparkler-type pyrotechnics fired from the wings.
His flight path will extend from Gondola Square to the top of Thunderhead, and the plane will decrease in altitude as he nears the finale, he said.
After decades of performing at air shows, Oliver said he still gets excited for each show.
"For those of us who love flying, it's a thrill every time," he said.
Live country music by Banks and Shane, as well as special video presentations on Jumbo Tron TV screens and guest speakers, are also on Sunday's schedule of festivities.
Today's events include the first of four costume contests, a Liquid Soul concert at 3 p.m. in Gondola Square, a fireside chat with Steamboat legends from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel, and the Budweiser All-Star Aerial Show on the mountain from 5 to 6 p.m.
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