Behind the scenes of Frisco’s Fourth of July fireworks display
Ryan Summerlin July 4, 2013
Few people understand the amount of effort that goes into staging a Fourth of July fireworks show.
In the past, public displays may have featured a gaggle of people running around lighting fuses with match sticks, but today’s fireworks shows are a feat of modern technology.
On Wednesday, Jeff Berino, deputy chief of Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue, and a crew of about 12 volunteers began constructing the town of Frisco’s Fourth of July fireworks show, an electrically wired display fired with a computer.
This year’s fireworks show will run about 25 minutes and feature more than a ton of explosives charged by almost two and a half miles of wires, Berino said.
Frisco’s marketing manager Suzanne Lifgren, who described Berino as the town’s “fireworks master,” said he came into her office with a stack full of papers outlining the fireworks show, animatedly explaining the size, sounds and sights created by the different explosives.
“He is just passionate beyond belief and gets so excited,” Lifgren said. “He can make anyone a fireworks aficionado and get you all worked up about it.”
Although it takes a crew of about a dozen two days to complete final construction of the display, preparations for the annual fireworks show begins months in advance.
In February, Berino began compiling a show script with Gary Caimano of Western Enterprises, Inc. located in Carrier, Okla. Caimano earned a Ph.D. in theatrics, Berino said.
The script — 25 pages long and broken into four- to six-second increments — is where the true art of planning a fireworks display takes place. Almost all shows are set to music with the goal of timing explosions to the changes in speed and tempo of each song.
However, what most viewers don’t take into consideration is show designers must plan seconds ahead of the music to factor for each shell’s specific flight pattern.
“Some of the larger stuff, like the 10-inch shells, fly about 1,000 feet into the air and require 10 seconds of flight time before they explode,” Berino said. “Some of the smaller shells still need three to six seconds of flight time, so it takes a lot of planning to make sure everything goes off when you want them to.”
Another common misconception is that because the Chinese invented gunpowder, all fireworks come from China. Although Chinese-made fireworks make up about 60 percent of the shells, tonight’s show will include explosives made in the United States, Japan and Italy.
In addition to some never-before-seen designs, such as one shell that will look like an octopus with different colored arms, the show will feature plenty of classic firework patterns. One of those classics, the Kamuro, happens to be Berino’s favorite. When it explodes, the Kamuro resembles a big, weeping willow tree.
“I love those, I always have, but I’m also seeing a lot of names on this script I’ve never heard of before,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to firing this year’s show.”
Regardless of whether one is in it to catch a glimpse of one of a favorite shell design or something brand new, everyone loves a finale, Berino said, and this year’s shouldn’t disappoint.
Timed to the music of Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America” the town of Frisco’s Fourth of July fireworks show will come to a dramatic conclusion with the firing of 450 shells over the course of exactly 42 seconds.
But safety also is a concern for anyone in charge of firing a fireworks show, Lifgren said.
As in years past, tonight’s show will be shot from behind Summit Middle School and out over the water of Frisco Bay, providing a safe venue for the colorful display.
“The good thing is we can deal with a lot of wind and a lot of dryness because we are shooting off in safe areas,” Lifgren said.
The lighting of the sky above Frisco Bay is just one of many Independence Day attractions put on in Frisco today.
Fourth of July celebrations kick off with a pancake breakfast to benefit Team Summit, a local organization that aims to elevate youth through winter sports. Children are invited bring their fishing poles to a fishing derby at Meadow Creek Park starting at 9 a.m.
One of the most popular events throughout the day is the Fourth of July parade, Lifgren said. It starts at 12:30 p.m. on Main Street and runs between Madison and Sixth avenues.
“The fun thing about the Frisco parade is it truly is a small town parade. We let anybody in that wants to be in,” Lifgren said.
With about 60 floats scheduled to appear, this year’s parade “could be a good one,” she said.
Although the participants who take part in the parade vary from year to year, one thing is for sure, Lifgren said. There will be lots of treats for the little ones.
“My children receive more candy at the parade than they do at Halloween,” she said.
The town also organized a musical lineup that includes the big band sounds of the Summit Concert Band, a rhythm and blues band with a Motown sound called Jakarta, and a finale concert by Cody Canada and the Departed at 7:15 p.m. at the marina.
Lifgren described the Fourth of July celebrations as a “Norman Rockwell” small-town event.
“It’s all walkable, and something universally everybody can participate in,” she said. “I feel like all you need to do wear your red, white and blue, get out the door and it’s all done for you. You are going to have great time, meet a ton of people and have a huge amount of civic pride by the end of the day.”
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