Working a Professional Fireworks Show
This wasn't the first time I've worked a professional show. I actually worked one last year, then promptly never got around to writing about it, so sorry about that, but the main question people ask there is how did I get into working professional fireworks shows once a year?
The answer is pretty simple: I answered the phone.
Laura (friend who happens to be a licensed pyro): "Kenneth. I know you like to do crazy stuff. My friend needs more hands to work a fireworks show. Would you be interested?"
Me: "Yes. yes. Matter of fact, yes I would. Dear god, yes. Yes."
Fast forward to this year, and she hadn't heard anything too terrible about my performance last year, so she invited me to work the City of Cupertino show with her this year, which is what I'm detailing here.
Due to the limited size of the field we were firing this show in, the show was limited to 3" shells, so they weren't going to be going particularly high, but we were making up for it in shear quantity. 950 loose shells, plus another 150 in "cakes," which are 25 shell clusters that just fire one after another, generally as the final crescendo to and during the finale.
Before loading them in the guns, we place them on top of each gun for the inevitable shuffling of shells when we come up short of one kind and have a long string of the same kind or color in one of the blocks which would be visually boring. Swapping some of these for some of those in the next block, etc etc.
Notice how each shell is pre-wired for both electronic firing via wire (which is what this show is using) and manual firing via the quick match fuse.
Of course, we had several opens (see channel 3 in the photo above), so it was several iterations of checking the panel, noting down the open channels, turning off the panel, running out and finding the broken wires, fixing them, then clearing the field, then checking the panel, and figuring out which other wires we broke during the last round, etc. etc.
Yes. That is a photo of my hand, with a road flare. I was picked to set off the two starter shells, so I got to walk out into the middle of a lawn, filled with explosives wired to go off, light a road flare, and touch it to the first two fuses.
You know, when I put it like that... it really makes you ponder the life decisions that have gotten you to the place where you stand...
it was a pretty good view...
So then the show is over, and we need to go clean up the little mess we've made in the middle of some grounds keeper's pride and joy setting off 1100 explosives.
Poke a stick into each tube, check to see that it's empty, and pour out the shells that are still left and collected them in a pile. I know. Very technical.
Of course, getting another truck out here which is placarded and licensed to transport 1.3G explosives for just the six duds we had would be a bit of a waste of time, particularly when we've got 950 perfectly good launching tubes already set up, a fire marshal who's being a good sport, and 15 pyros who came to set off some fireworks.
Remember how each shell is both wired for electronic and manual firing? This is when the manual fuse comes in handy for setting off these six duds. This is also where I was handed a second flare and sent out to fire off another six shells manually. I mean, I don't mind, but I'm starting to suspect there's some not-in-their-20s self-preservation impulse for everyone else that kept resulting in me being the only volunteer for the manual shots...
Have you ever wondered why shows set off a few fireworks about a half hour after the show ends? This is why. They were just missed during the show and the operator really doesn't want to have to carry them home.