I started doing fireworks professionally (un-paid) about ten years ago. I was just helping a small up and coming fireworks company out with their show setup. Over time, due to more successes than failures and just showing up, I became a senior pyro with the company. This year I got to run one of the shows from setup and shoot for the first time. It was a stupendous amount of work, but it was also tremendously satisfying.
We started around 6:30am to avoid the heat of the day. It wasn’t early enough. As the day wore on the heat became oppressive and our progress slowed to a crawl. I can’t remember ever drinking so much and peeing so little in my entire life. At its peak the temperature climbed to 105 degrees. It was still in the upper 80s at 9pm when we put on our fire suits. The mosquitos were not as bad as they could have been, they must have had a heat stroke. Thank god.
Almost fifteen hours after arriving on the shoot site the last shot just went off and there was a tiny moment of quiet. This is a golden moment. I took off my hearing protection to listen to the crowd cheer. The show was spectacular and the audience seemed to really enjoy it. It was a long hot day and I was tired to the bone. Then it was time to clean up and go home.
An hour and a half later on the drove home I started to reflect upon the weekends activities. Since Saturday I probably spent 24 hours working on setting up fireworks displays for two different Fourth of July celebrations. Out of all that work setting up and wiring the different displays, I spent fifteen minutes lighting fireworks and about five minutes watching the finally. I had to ask the question, was it all worth it?
Of course it was worth it, but why?
Most people spend the weekend enjoying BBQs, drinking massive quantities of beer, and having fun with friends and relatives. I hope they reflect a bit on what the holiday is all about. No it’s not about BBQ, Bud-Light, and Fireworks, sorry to burst your bubble. It’s about Pomp and Parade, Performances, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Fireworks. Ok, mostly fireworks.
John Adams wrote a letter to his wife, and said that Independence Day
will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America…It will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews [performances], Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations [fireworks] from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
Maybe fireworks represent the part of the celebration that John Adams talked about that may have been intended to remind people of the violent and explosive nature of revolution.
So, do I put in all this time and effort for the love of fireworks? Or do I do it all for the feeling I get when the crowd cheers? Or is it because of a natural progression to migrate towards bigger and better toys? Or is it a way for me to volunteer my time to send a patriotic message of support to the masses?
My motivation probably involves all of the above, patriotism, adulation from the crowd, playing with big toys, a love of fireworks, and a bit of the little kid inside that just likes to blow shit up.
How did you spend your Fourth of July?