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Contractor Saves Fourth of July Fireworks Show

When the California drought threatens an annual event, Connolly Crane rises to the occasion.

Sat July 25, 2015 - West Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

For years, the pristine community of Incline Village, Nev., has provided the perfect backdrop for one of the largest Independence Day fireworks displays in the United States — on the north end of Lake Tahoe.

Connolly Crane has had the honor for many years of placing barges in the lake from which the fireworks are set off and the pyrotechnics are the culmination of the “Red, White and Tahoe Blue” celebration.

But the California drought threatened this year’s event.

The water level in Lake Tahoe is at its lowest point since 1992, which presented quite the challenge for Gardnerville, Nev.’s Connolly Crane. The receding water at the boat ramp at Ski Beach would require the barges to be moved a radius of more than 100 ft. (30.5 m) from the trailers they would be brought in on. Three of the four barges weighed more than 21,000 lbs. (9,525.44 kg) each and a fourth weighed in at 12,000 lbs. (9,525.44 kg).

But that wasn’t the only problem.

Incline Village is known as a playground and tax haven for wealthy Californians — some of the more famous residents include Michael Milken, Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison, Aaron Rogers and Mike Love, to name a few. And they don’t like noise and disruption. Their community organization IVGID (Incline Village General Improvement District) was created to keep such activities that would cause these to a minimum.

In addition, there also was the far from crane-friendly tight, winding, tree-lined road leading to the beach, as well as the limited timeframe required for both set up and tear down.

Connolly Crane has relied on its Link-Belt RTC 8090 for the past five years, but owner Kelly Connolly knew that the crane would not handle the increased radius caused by the drought this year. Luckily, Connolly had been introduced to the Link-Belt ATC 3210 at ConExpo 2014 and had spent the past year working with Link-Belt and its dealer, Nixon-Egli, to order and customize the model to meet his company’s specific needs.

The 210-ton (190.5 t) capacity crane, which would become the largest in his fleet, arrived just in time for the “Red, White and Tahoe Blue” event, with mere days to spare.

Connolly put the crane right to work and he said the crane performed flawlessly.

“This was a very tight job site,” said Connolly. “The coordinated front back steering was crucial or we would not have maneuvered in there.”

Less support was needed to accompany the crane to a job, which impressed Connolly.

“We got there faster, with fewer trucks and personnel than before,” he said.

“It [ATC 3210] does everything Link-Belt said it would do,” said Operator Travis Phillips. “We took the second load to 90 percent of load chart and the crane handled it very well.”

In addition to performance, comfort was at an all-time high with the crane’s cab.

The ATC 3210 was a pleasure to drive the 35 miles or so of winding road from Gardnerville to Incline Village, Phillips said. “The crane is very smooth. It felt good at 62 mph with the dolly behind it.”

Due to the combined performance, capacity, transportability and comfort of Link-Belt’s ATC, in conjunction with Connolly Crane’s team, a job that could have ended up in disappointment for thousands of fireworks viewers was completed in the nick of time.

During Connolly’s almost 30 years in business, crane technology has changed and so has his business. But Connolly’s philosophy has not.

“We continue to be solution driven,” he said. “We are committed to having the right equipment and the right personnel for the job.”

That he proved on this job. But he also credits Nixon-Egli.

“The folks at Nixon-Egli were key to this whole thing,” he said, whose relationship with the dealer goes back to the company’s first purchase, an RTC 8070. “Mark Lomas, our salesman, Dana Randle, their vice president of sales, and Vern Gunderson, the general sales manager, were all great.”

“I love Nixon-Egli … it is all about service with them,” Connolly said. “When I call them and say ’crane down,’ it means something — they react. If it’s in the middle of the night, they are on the way. Their parts guy Randy Davis has bailed us out many times in the middle of the night. He has personally driven 100 miles at midnight to bring us a part.”

About Connolly Crane

Kelly Connolly founded Connolly Crane in 1986. After years of working as a crane operator, he decided to take the next step, purchasing a Grove TM180 and venturing out on his own. His company grew steadily over the next couple of decades and became known fondly around the West as “the mountain crane people.”

The company grew rapidly in the early 2000s and has quickly become a major player in the crane industry in northern Nevada and adjacent California.

His company employs 12 people and has a fleet of six cranes, including a Link-Belt HTT867 and an HTT86100 along with Manitex and National cranes.

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