SHERIDAN — Though the hundreds of people who attend the annual fireworks display at the Big Horn Equestrian Center each year may leave at the end of the night, the fields are far from empty. In fact, as the sun rises the following morning, the fields are revealed to be full of thousands of pieces of trash, large and small.
For more than a decade, the responsibility of cleaning the fields has been taken on by students at the Wyoming Girls School.
The cleanup involves not only picking up obvious large pieces of trash, such as food wrappers, cans and cigarette butts left by people, but literally millions of small pieces of debris left from the fireworks themselves.
“When all the fireworks explode, all the sparkly things are little pieces of paper,” explained Chris Jones, principal and interim superintendent of the Wyoming Girls School. “We get on hands and knees and get all the little pieces of paper and larger mortars. It is millions of pieces.”
Approximately 40 girls participate in the cleanup each year, as well as several staff from the school. They are assisted in the cleanup by various tools and machines that make the job a little easier.
“We do take out our maintenance staff and power mowers,” Jones explained. “They spread out and make a line and as we get closer to where they set it off the debris field gets more intense. It is a huge job, but we’ve done it so many years that we’ve refined it to somewhat of a science now.”
Though the task sounds disagreeable, the girls are rewarded for their efforts. Most the girls actually attend the fireworks display and have front row seats to enjoy the show. They also receive payment from the Big Horn Lions Club. The money is put into a special fund that is used to give gifts and rewards to the girls throughout the year.
“It is a fund that is just used for the girls,” Jones said. “We buy Christmas presents for the girls, pay for special field trips or some educational incentives like pizza. That kind of stuff all comes out of that fund. It allows us to have some freedom in rewarding the girls.”
“For the most part, the girls do a good job and are pretty jovial about being there,” she added. “Every once in a while we get a student or two who is kind of grumbly about it. But we try to make it fun. They get Dilly bars afterwards and the staff is there and it is kind of a social thing. They are pretty positive about it.”