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Planning for Magic

Professional choreography does the trick

Even the biggest Fourth of July fire-works shows are over in minutes.

Planning lasts much longer.

Choreographing the shows is a job for professionals. The bigger the budget, the bigger the display — in length and drama.

            The City of Annapolis has partnered  for a decade with Pyrotechnico. Those Pennsylvania fireworks pros bring Annapolis a standard program that lasts 12 to 15 minutes. Every customer’s program differs depending on budget and the size of the safety and shooting zone. The city typically budgets $20,000 and raises between $5,000 to $8,000 in donations collected by the July 4th Annapolis Inc. Committee.

            Fireworks are shot by a six-person Pyrotechnico team from a barge in Annapolis Harbor.

            Big fireworks shows like in the nation’s capital can last up to 30 minutes.

            Delays between bursts depend on how long the show goes. Delays can be up to five seconds, but Pyrotechnico recommends “a two- to three-second delay for best results.”

            “Variety is the key to any show,” Pyrotechnico explains. That takes lots of different colors, types and sizes, from typical fireworks like chrysanthemums and peonies to special-effect shells like whistles and pattern bursts. The heights and scope of fireworks depend on the size of the shells. Fireworks fly 100 feet high for every inch of shell, so the largest 10-inch shells burst 1,000 feet over the Bay.

            Finales are shot at rapid speeds, lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute and a half. They might seem longer because there is so much to take in.

            The Annapolis 2013 show featured “a great finale that lasted what seemed about three minutes,” says harbormaster William Brookes, who’s responsible for the show at the city end.

            For any professional show, size and type of fireworks are determined by state laws and the area of the safety zone. On land, safety zones are enforced. If you’re watching from the water, anchor at least 1,000 feet from the detonation center. Annapolis, Chesapeake Beach, Herrington Harbour and Solomons all set water boundaries and have security to keep you out of the safety zone.

            Let the pros do the work and you’re more likely to keep your fingers — and your sight and hearing — this Fourth of July.