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10,000 (pyro) Maniacs

Because the night belongs to pyros!

Man what an adrenaline rush Saturday night was. Maybe Desert Storm had better fireworks...just maybe.

What am I talking about? The annual fireworks buyers show called Test Fire which is sponsored by the company that supplies the fireworks for our Pyrotechnics team, "Team Nite Fire."

It's an all day thing with classes in everything from beginning and advanced pyrotechnics to classes on shows computer choreographed to music. The only thing scarier than a pyromaniac with the knowledge and materials to blow up an entire city block is 1000 pyromaniacs all gathered in the same place.


The wind blew like a son of a bitch all day. 40 mph steady with gusts up to 60 but we knew since it was a clear day the wind would die a bit when the night came. And it did. By 8:00 it had died down to around 10 mph and the OK was given for the night's festivities. They give everyone a list and start out with the small stuff. An anouncer will come on and say "this is number 45 on your sheet. A four inch red peony with purple willow diadem tail and exploding report." Then the pyros light the shell and everyone ooohs and ahhhs at the result when it explodes in the sky.

Since our team is doing a show in NC at the end of April, we were also there to check out the new stuff to add to our repetoire. And man did we see some killer stuff. They did a bunch of multi-shot cakes that were way bigger than anything we saw last year. They also shot some 10, 12 and 16 inch shells. Just imagine, an explosive that measures 16 iches in diameter. Pretty much bigger than cannon balls or most of the artillery the millitary shoots during wartime! When the damned thing exploded, it filled the entire sky. You know all of us adrenaline junkies were just itching to get down there and fire them ourselves. People were clapping and screaming and stomping thier feet so hard the entire stadium we were in was shaking. You know you've done something when you get a reaction like that from people who do this sort of thing all the time.

The evening was capped off by three, 10 minute shows, choreographed to music. The first was computer controlled so when the lead pyro hits the fire button, the computer takes over and the team just walks away. Kind of a pussy way to do things but if you've got a lot of effects and not a lot of pyros, I guess it's the best way to go. It was to the tune of Guns and Roses version of Live and Let Die. There was one effect in the show that was totally AWESOME. Right after the initial lines of the song when Axl Rose sings "and when this ever changing world in which we live in makes you give in and cry....say Live and let Die!" and the drums and lead guitars comes in, the computer touched off a firebomb 3 feet in diameter which produced a solid wall of flame ending in a mushroom cloud 75 FEET HIGH. We were about 500 feet away in the stands and everyone felt the heat and the force of the explosion. We are thinking about adding one of those to one of our 4th of July shows. Problem is keeping spectators far enough away and also not getting it so big that it blows out car windows. Crispy fans and damaged vehicles are things you want to avoid as a pyro.

The nice thing about a computer controlled show is that effects can be timed precisely to the music. If a drum beats, an effect can be timed to explode right at that instant.

The next two choreographed shows were to music as well but they were hand fired which means the pyros stand behind an electronic board and fire on cue with a conducter telling them when. Saturday's efforts reminded me of when the first steam engines first came out and people were challenging the steam engines to speed contests. Like horses running or like men using a crosscut saw challenging a steam operated saw. The hand fired shows were like that in comparisson to the computer controlled shows.

A guy who works with our crew did both the hand fired shows. The first was choreographed to "They're Coming to America" by Neil Diamond. I know, it's sappy but it's also damned patriotic and a great theme for fireworks because of the cannon shots recorded into the music. When the cannons fired, the pyros touched off 6 separate 21 gun salutes done with 10 inch shells. 21-10 inch salutes exploding at once could knock birds out of the air and shatter car windows 1000 feet away. As it was people in the stands were visibly shaken by the report. The second of the hand fired shows was to Born to Be Wild by Steppenwolf. When the line "fire all of your guns at once and explode into space" came up, they did what's called a "Wall of Fire" effect. 36 - 6 inch shells spaced along the length of a city block were touched off at once. Their tails created a solid wall of flame and the resulting explosion filled the sky with colored flames all under a bright full moon.

Afterwards, everyone helps clean up the grounds and the spectators leave and then the pyros are all treated to an after party. This was a scene like the first INXS video from the album Shaboo Shabaa with the feast and all the women and everyone rolling around in the food. Well we weren't rolling in the food but there certainly was that much of it. Plus the company footed the bill for 6 kegs of Michelob. Not too shabby.

I asked the guy who did the handfired shows how much each one cost. The computerized show cost $25,000. The handfired ones were each $15,000. Can you imagine $55,000 worth of explosives all burned up in 1/2 hour?

We are a little lower tech than all of that. We hand light most of our shows with only the more complex effects done with electronics. That's right, we hand light fuses and stand nearby when 6 inch artillery shells are firing right next to us. It's just not as fun if there's not the possibility of serious injury involved.

You know the commercial where they are blowing up a building and at the last minute they blow up another one as well? Then the anouncer says "Just because you have the power doesn't mean you have to use it!" Well the opposite is true in pyrotechincs. "If you got it, light it!" It's the adrenaline junkie's wet dream.

We really want to do a show choreographed to back to back AC/DC songs: Thunderstruck and For those About to Rock, We Salute You. We may try at least one song in Washington, NC at the end of the month. Maybe we'll do both songs at the Christian Rock festival we do in July. That ought to get us not invited back again.

At the end of the month me and 3 other certifiable nut cases will be heading out to NC with a trailer full of 800 pounds of seriously high explosives. It might be a good weekend to stay off the roads. I'll put up some pix tomorrow of some of our past shows.

Peace and high explosives!



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 9th, 2001 04:20 pm (UTC)
Oh great and now you're coming to blow up a large section of my state too. Maybe it's time I took that out of state vacation after all....



p.s. Nice maniacal laughter there.
Apr. 9th, 2001 04:24 pm (UTC)
Hmmmm...coming to blow up Eastern NC.
Dubya coming to G'ville Wednesday.
Wander...can you come here?
Apr. 10th, 2001 07:46 am (UTC)
Having had a run in with Secret Service guys before I doubt we'd get within a mile of Dubya but anything is possible.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


Wander aka StoneBear
Bear Dancer Studios

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