June Jubilee fireworks display is meticulously put together
Dean Kuhn of Zambelli Fireworks can tell you that the fireworks displays he choreographs are a lot more than just loud bangs and pretty colors. Kuhn, who will plan the fireworks program for June Jubilee on June 14 in Wadena, said it’s easy for audiences to miss just how much work goes into the shows; from sketching out a plan to when the first shell is launched into the night sky.
“People think we show up at 5 o'clock and throw a couple mortars in the ground and stand out there with a book of matches,” he said.
Kuhn said there’s a wide range of variables that fireworks planners must consider when mapping out a show. For example, pacing is paramount: too few fireworks at once and people get bored; too many and the show becomes anticlimactic. Kuhn said some people might think that a longer display is a better one, but he begs to differ.
“We have a philosophy that most people like a quicker-paced show, and action,” he said.
Visibility is also a key concern, Kuhn said. Since the June Jubilee display is intended for the whole town of Wadena to see rather than just a group of people gathered in a specific place, the fireworks used will detonate at a higher altitude so they can be visible over a greater distance. When the operators send up “pattern” fireworks, or shells that form a specific two-dimensional design in the sky, they try to shoot several at different angles over the course of a performance so that the viewer isn’t stuck looking at design from the side, where a flag or smiley face might appear to be just one vertical line.
After they spend the better part of a day simply setting up the battery of launchers, Kuhn and his co-workers will program the order of shell launches into a semi-computerized firing system that lets them remotely detonate the charges from about 100 feet away. There are two explosions for each shell: the first is triggered by the “lift charge”, which propels the paper cartridge out of the mortar-style launching tube and also lights the fuse for the “burst charge” which creates the second explosion. The burst charge is the one that actually ignites and spreads out the chemicals that create the firework’s colorful light effects.
Although Kuhn said he hears from people concerned over the environmental impact of the spent shell material that floats to the ground after detonation, the scraps of paper and remnant chemicals pose little threat. The fragments of paper shell casings eventually get wet and biodegrade, Kuhn said, and studies have shown that lakewater over which fireworks are regularly fired contained no trace chemicals from the fireworks at all.
“We’re pretty confident that what trace chemicals would not get burned up is such is small amount, and that small amount dissipates,” Kuhn said. “We haven’t found a study yet that has found any amount of pollution or chemical residue...”