Behind the Scenes of the
Boulder 4th of July Fireworks
The music begins to play softly. Characters of all colors, shapes and sizes wait breathlessly in the wings. Slowly, the opening act begins to move across the stage, mimicking the rising and falling of the sounds they hear. More characters fill the stage as the music crescendos, calling for more colors, more expression. They strive to match each sound perfectly, bursting with the sound of celebration as they unite in a grand finale.
That’s what Gary Caimano, the fireworks choreographer from Western Enterprises, sees in his head while scripting the Boulder fireworks show every year. Each firework has its own personality, its own color, sound and place in the grand scheme of the show. The music, he says, dictates which fireworks should be set off and when: if the music describes a scene from “sea to shining sea”, Gary works with his blue characters where “amber waves of grain” involve his gold. Along with color, sizes and effects are equally important and relay on his extensive knowledge of the available fireworks to cast the right players in the right spots.
Once the final cast of characters are set, Gary carefully back-times each one to ensure they hit the sky perfectly in time with the music, adjusting for various launch speeds and heights. With both the music and choice of fireworks, his goal is to build up the energy throughout the show until the conclusion of the grand finale, which he hopes will leave viewers in total awe.
Choosing the music and fireworks is just one part of a collaborative process to conduct a seamless fireworks display every year. Planning a show actually starts a full year in advance. The 365-day process is crucial for choreographing the shows, choosing the music, ordering products, manufacturing, packing and delivering a show on time. In addition, a whole team works from an administrative side to ensure proper permitting, insurance and regulation compliance.
Once Gary has completed a pièce de résistance of a script, the script goes to manufacturing, packaging, and shipping. Some of the amazing fireworks are unique to Western Enterprises, and specially manufactured by them while others are ordered from national or international sources. Once all of the fireworks have been manufactured and are ready to go, everything for our fireworks show is shipped to Boulder. With the regulations around transporting fireworks, this particular portion of the show preparation has evolved over the years to be a whole process in and of itself.
From there, the local operators, licensed by the state, receive the script and the fireworks. At this point, it’s in the hands of the operator to make sure the show launches perfectly. The fireworks are electronically fired, but the operator fires the cues according to the back-timed schedule with the music. Along with the fire department, a team of “spotters” watch for every shell that is fired, keep an eye on the winds, and watch where the shells are falling during the show to assure that the display continues safely.
Whether it’s the honk of a boat’s horn after a show over the water, or the cheers and applause after a stadium show like ours, Gary says the best part is hearing the audience’s reaction to the show. Seeing the process start with the vision in his head, to watching the fireworks magically light up the sky on the anniversary of our country’s independence leaves him in awe, too. The music and the fireworks that we see are only a small portion of what has happened behind the scenes, though: it’s a whole, collaborative team that completes our patriotic celebration with an amazing fireworks display.