Planning Your Display
After finding a suitable location for your display, the next step is to begin the planning. The best way to do this is with a notebook and pencil - I begin all of my firework show planning on paper months before the actual display. Begin to list the types of fireworks you want in your display, be it aerial repeaters, shells, roman candles, or whatever, along with any specific names of items you particularly like - for example, the "America Invincible" repeater. If they are legal in your area, plan on getting as many aerial devices as possible - they are the most entertaining and best crowd-pleasing fireworks. If you aren't already aware of your local fireworks ordinances, now is the time to find out about them. The city or county in which you live may further restrict your state's firework laws, so it's good to be aware of the types of fireworks you can't use so you don't plan on putting them in your display.
You need to figure out an approximate budget for your display. How much do you want to spend on fireworks? $100? $200? $300? Determining this will help you decide about how many of each type of firework to get and where to place them on the field when it comes to your show. Take a look at the list of the type of fireworks you want to have and decide how much of your budget you want to spend on each type of device. Say your list included fountains, repeaters, shells, and rockets. You may decide to spend 20%, 30%, 30%, and 20% of your budget on each of those types, respectively. If you've decided on a $200 firework budget, then you could expect to buy about $40 worth of fountains. Don't be worried about being too exact on these figures. They're only to give you a general idea of how much of which item you're going to buy. Chances are that when the time comes to buy your fireworks, the selection and prices of your local dealer may prompt you to make slight chances in your plans.
If you're having a large show, you should consider having at least assistant to help you out. If you're only going to spend about $150 on fireworks, you will probably be able to handle setting them all off on your own. But if you're getting more than that, it would be a good idea to have someone else to help you light the fireworks. When you have a large quantity of fireworks, it helps to have an assistant to keep the show moving along. For example, your assistant could be letting off fireworks while you are quickly setting up and preparing to ignite another set. Having an assistant also enables you to ignite fireworks from different locations simultaneously, which is much more exciting to the audience. If you plan on purchasing more than $400 worth of fireworks, I would recommend that you have two or three assistants. Be sure to decide on this well before your show so you can make sure that the people you choose are free to help you out on the night of the display.
Next, you should draw out a diagram of the firework area (discussed on the previous page) and locate the exact points of where each type of firework will be launched, taking into account that the more powerful items should be placed farthest from the audience. For example, you may choose to divide the "rocket" section into three launching points, each one with its own rocket rack or launching pipe. This would enable you to light a rocket and run quickly to the next launch point to set off another one, or would allow you and your assisstant(s) to light off multiple rockets at the same time. You may also choose to divide the "repeater" section up into several areas, each will a small pile of bricks used for stabilizing the devices before you light them.
A good technique to keep your show moving along is to set off the fireworks in small ordered groups. A group might consist of, say, a fountain, two repeaters, three shells, and five rockets. You can choose whatever you like. Such a group may take about 4 minutes to fire. If you want your display to last approximately 20 minutes, then you will need to buy enough fireworks for about 5 separate groups. In each group, figure out what order you will ignite the fireworks in, and keep track of this in your notebook. Remember, it's always best to ignite smaller, less impressive fireworks first, followed later by larger ones in order to build up intensity in your display. Your largest/loudest firework(s) should be saved for last.
Music is also a great way to complement your display. Either use an electric stereo you can bring outside, or invite a teenager to come over – after all, the average teen owns a car/truck with a stereo system powerful enough to generate shock waves that can rattle windows in Hong Kong. Chose a (or make your own) CD (or tape, for those of us still living in the 80s) full of songs that you can just let play throughout your entire show. For the 4th of July, you should use patriotic songs such as Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" (a personal favorite). Don't worry about trying to synchronize your fireworks to the music like the pros do, because it's impossible to do without an electronic firing system.
Another step in the planning is to let any nearby neighbors know about your display. Giving them a heads-up about what will be going on will allow them to make sure that any small children or animals are indoors when it comes time for you to light off the fireworks. Remember, you're not asking their permission nor seeking their approval, so long as you're using legal fireworks during the designated time period. You're just telling them that you will be lighting off fireworks.
By now you should have a good idea of what your show is going to be like, and are ready to buy your fireworks and begin getting ready for setting up your show. Before proceeding to the next section, be sure to read my Firework Buying Tips page.
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