The making of a fireworks show

Fireworks have been a big passion of mine for a long time. In fact, while working as a summer-intern at Apple Computer in Cupertino between 1988 and 1991, I got invited by some friends to participate in the actual firing of the Fourth of July show at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. Being part of the crew, loading the shells into the mortars, and wiring up the fireworks was certainly a lifetime experience.

So when Mike Mentuck, Tony Sasso, and Judy Jacobi asked me if I would like to chair the Marblehead Fireworks Committee, I was easily convinced. A lot of work went into the preparations for the show this entire spring – especially into fund-raising – and I am very grateful to all the donors who have sent contributions to make this year’s fireworks display possible. And we truly couldn’t have put together this show without the countless hours spent by volunteers as well as the Marblehead Police, Fire, Harbormaster, and Park&Rec departments. I am also grateful to Atlas Pyro for not only putting together such a great show for us, but also for supporting us with a significant donation this year.

So what goes into the making of a fireworks show on the Fourth of July in Marblehead? It all starts before dawn, as we leave Beverly Port Marina on Electric Armadillo to drive her over to Marblehead harbor:


As we approach the mouth of Marblehead harbor, the barge is already waiting in position, having arrived from Swampscott/Lynn during the night:

As we enter Marblehead harbor we are rewarded with a beautiful view of the sun rising over the boats and over Salem Sound:


The Commercial Street landing in Marblehead is the designated meeting point for loading the fireworks and crew onto our boats. Mike Mentuck transports all explosives aboard Elizabeth M. and Tim Green takes the crew out to the barge on Reel Magic.

As we arrive at the barge and load the fireworks, the 500 ft security zone around the barge gets established. During the day this security zone is maintained by a group of volunteers, and Tim and I take the first shift.

After 9:00 am the group of volunteers led by Jock Danforth takes over and we get a little break on Electric Armadillo.

After 6:00 pm the Marblehead harbormaster and a US Coast Guard Auxiliary vessel take over the patrol of the security zone, and everything is going according to plan. Sunset at 8:25 brings renewed activity:


Marblehead light is decorated festively and the preparation for the harbor illumination begin, as residents around the harbor, yacht clubs, boy scouts, firefighters, and volunteers prepare to light the flares:


At 8:45 pm the flares are lit, and the Marblehead harbor illumination begins. You can view the following panorama image in larger scale by clicking on the image to open a higher resolution version:

At 9:00 pm the fireworks begin and the show is indeed as spectacular as we’ve all hoped it would be. What a great day on the water, and what a great day to be in Marblehead!


Once again a big thank you to all who made this fireworks display possible!

This article is being cross-posted on XML Aficionado and the Falk House blog. More photos and high-res versions of the above photos can be found on my photo website.