The big show
Rainier Martin Ampongan/Shutterstock
Unlike backyard fireworks that happen pretty much completely randomly, major community fireworks shows take months of design and planning and require a host of people to pull off. A choreographer assembles the script for the show, and in most cases programs computers to execute the plan. The stagehands or crew carry out the directions of the production manager and choreographer and prepare to safely launch the fireworks. In some shows, an announcer will explain to the audience what is coming up. Finally, no show would be successful without the safety crew, whose sole job is to ensure that the fireworks are produced safely. These are the cities that have the most spectacular 4th of July fireworks.
There’s only one person who can set the fireworks show in motion and that’s the production manager, also known as the Lead Shooter. And for good reason. “When multiple events are occurring, the production manager manages competing events,” says Dan Creagan, pyrotechnician and media coordinator for Pyrotechnics Guild International (PGI). “He or she directs the placement of the different launching mechanisms and ensures that all parties are in safety compliance.”
The unknown artist
While you’re oohing and aahing, you probably don’t consider that someone actually designed the fiery spectacle, but it takes an experienced fireworker to create a larger than life, star-spangled masterpiece. After all, the entire sky is the pyrotechnician’s canvas. “The shells are the paint and the art is in the hands of the pyrotechnicians, and often a choreographer will work months to produce a unique show for an event. The shells, effects, and sound are selected to paint an ethereal picture that is pleasing,” says Creagan. “Different devices are used to have a balance of ground, mid-sky, and high altitude effects.”