Firework Schedule

Thursday, June 29

Friday, June 30

Saturday, July 1

Sunday, July 2

Monday, July 3

Tuesday, July 4

Corrections or additions?

This article by Pat Summers was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

June 28, 2000. All rights reserved.

Pyrotechnics: Past & Present

E-mail: PatSummers@princetoninfo.com

For many of us, our first brush with fireworks came

during childhood, at our hometown July Fourth celebration. It may

have started with bunting-draped bandstands and gazebos, and

three-wheelers

decorated in red, white, and blue. But all that was for the daylight

hours, to pass the time before the evening’s town-wide affair in the

high school stadium. Until darkness fell, it was home-brewed

entertainment,

like community sing-alongs of "Bicycle Built for Two,"

"Yankee

Doodle Dandy," and "America the Beautiful." Surrounding

the stage erected on the football field: all sizes of the "grand

old flag," while among the families spread out on blankets or

sitting in the bleachers: more flags; cap pistols and rolls —

madeleines with distinctive, sulfurous smell; sparklers and burning

punk. Capping the event: the fireworks display.

Back then, it was all visual, with the only sound coming from the

accompanying explosions themselves. Some of us looked and listened

with delight; others held our ears — which made little difference

— and kept looking. The finale was a rip-roaring fusillade of

sounds large and small, accompanying a spectacular sky show of myriad

shapes and colors. Then, the walk home through the park, carrying

blankets, folding chairs, mementoes — invariably still more little

flags for the family collection, brought out of storage each year

to ring the house on national holidays, and serve as protective

talismans,

warding off unpatriotic thoughts, words, or deeds.

Ah, the simple life. Compare that idyllic memory with the recent

millennium

fireworks display in England alone: a matched set of barges extending

along the Thames, creating a landscape-wide line of fireworks. Or

consider the upcoming OpSail spectacular in New York Harbor: for what

promoters call "the largest maritime event in history," what

else would do but "the largest fireworks display in the world

to date"? Reportedly, 13 barges at five different harbor locations

will be used, threatening the visual equivalent of "decibel

deafness."

Those long-ago Independence Days with their glorious fireworks

displays

may have been our defining moment, but even by then, others

were there before us around the world, marking their own events with

pyrotechnics — battle victories to coronations to funerals —

and they did it in equally inventive ways, as descriptive images

created

at the time make clear.

Through September 17, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is

offering

the most quiet millennium celebration exhibition, "Fireworks!

Four Centuries of Pyrotechnics in Prints and Drawings." In more

than 100 images showing fireworks displays over hundreds of years,

the show demonstrates how artists captured the dazzling appearance

of fireworks in action until the early 20th century, when photography

overtook documentary prints. Artists represented in

"Fireworks!"

include such notables as Jacques Callot, Honore Daumier, Edgar Degas,

Winslow Homer, Claude Lorrain, Francesco Piranesi, Antonio Tempesta.

Today, ever more popular, fireworks represent a unique combination

of nostalgia and high tech, playing a major part in celebration of

sports events, birthdays, weddings and graduations, millenniums and

tall-ship occasions, and oh, yes — national independence. The

first Independence Day fireworks display in America took place in

Philadelphia in 1776. Within a few years, the makings for such shows

would come from just down the road — the du Pont family’s Hagley

Gunpowder works in Delaware, this country’s earliest maker of black

powder, and also therefore a purveyor of pyrotechnic ingredients.

Just what are fireworks and how do they work? The

old-time

answer would entail comparing them to a gun: think of ignitable powder

in an enclosed space with something — a bullet, a shell, a

projectile

of some sort — at the front end, ready to be ejected. When the

powder is lit and explodes, the air in the vessel is compressed and

forces the object to fly out at high velocity. If this were a firework

propelled from a cylindrical shell, it might have built-in timer(s)

programming when in its trajectory it will explode in air, creating

the short-lived image of fire in the sky.

All references point to the Chinese, credited with inventing gunpowder

around the ninth century A.D., as the inventors of fireworks. From

then till now, throughout Asia, displays of fireworks have been common

occurrences. Japan, for instance, is often described as a nation

particularly

devoted to fireworks, using them as other countries might employ flags

or bands or cheerleaders. India’s earliest recorded use of fireworks

was in the mid-15th century, and Hong Kong Harbor, with its

surrounding

cone-like hills, is regarded as the world’s most perfect amphitheatre

for fireworks. Fireworks are an integral part of the traditional Lunar

New Year parades. In Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "The King and

I,"

Anna Leonowens’ concerns about her new job were put on hold until

after fireworks marking cremation of the last queen. First things

first.

Nor has Europe been a slouch in the fireworks department. By the early

16th century, Charles V, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, employed

"fireworkers" in his army to produce victory displays. Not

long after, Louis XIV adopted an idea from his finance minister so

the storied excesses at Versailles could include fireworks — as

any self-respecting excesses should. Italy and Germany were known

for fireworks displays during the 16th to 18th centuries, while in

England, the coronations of James II and Charles II were marked by

fireworks shows on the Thames. In the 17th century, Peter the Great

designed a fireworks show to celebrate peace after Russia’s war with

Sweden, often lit fireworks himself, and reportedly began the custom

of fireworks on New Year’s eve.

Different countries have characteristic "pyrotechnic styles,"

of course, and firework colors evolved over the centuries from a

monochromatic

amber shade. Details on these facts, and myriad other tidbits (the

reason behind the Orient’s "chrysanthemum" shells), anecdotes

(what Renaissance artists were involved with fireworks), and, yes,

minutiae (the production cost for various displays) can be found in

the comprehensive, well-illustrated classic of 1984, possibly the

only one of its kind: George Plimpton’s "Fireworks" — good

for leafing through as well as background like that above, which

obviously

does not come trippingly off either memory or tongue. Plimpton, of

"Paper Lion" fame and editor of the famed Paris Review, has

been the unofficial fireworks commissioner of New York City ever since

the Lindsay administration. He was recently tapped by the Met to

lecture

on fireworks as an adjunctto its current exhibition.

And that brings us back to pyrotechnics today — which includes

computer-designed and triggered fireworks displays, often in concert

with music and lasers. We’re talking behemoth shows, costing

mega-bucks.

One Delaware Valley pyrotechnician, who left his day job for the

events

business, regards a 12-minute display as standard length. He can take

that many hours to design the show, which may then cost about $25,000.

That in contrast to full-scale extravaganzas like those for national

conventions, the Kentucky Derby, and Superbowls — all in the

neighborhood

of $250,000. And rising.

Another fireworks entrepreneur, who trained with the famous Ruggieris

of France, specializes in what is called the European style of

tableau:

"explosions and effects going on at different heights for a kind

of wedding cake voluptuousness." He too plots what will happen

on computer: first, listening over and over to the music to be used;

then, synchronizing "breaks," or explosions, with the musical

beat, ultimately producing a "pyroscript" for the show-to-be.

Anything highly specialized that also includes an element of danger

is bound to have its own vocabulary — and the world of

pyrotechnics

is that and has that. A "salute" is a device designed to

produce

a single loud detonation, usually in the air, while a "report"

is a kind of salute, and "shots" are small reports.

"Noise"

means audible effect produced by intent, including salute,

report, fusillade, shots, cannonade, and whistle — not to be

confused

with "sound," which all shells make. And "shell"

itself

is short for aerial display. "Bombette" refers to

"pupatelle,"

which means any kind of smaller shells to be placed inside a larger

device. "Dressing" refers to additional ornamentation that

may be added to a lancework piece, and includes gerbs, fountains,

fogos, candles, shell bags, small wheels, and so on. No, we will not

go into the myriad possibilities of lancework. The good news is you

don’t have to know any of this to love fireworks.

The Ruggieris of France, Brocks Fireworks of Britain, the Gruccis

of Long Island, New York — classic and current names to conjure

with in the realm of pyrotechnics. Such a list also includes the

Santore

Brothers (and sister, Frances), of Garden State Fireworks, New Jersey,

and the world.

With her brothers, Nunzio and August, Frances Santore,

of four-time world champion Garden State Fireworks, is a

third-generation

executive of the 110-year-old company that her grandfather founded

soon after arriving here from Italy, where he had learned his trade

from the master fireworker to King Victor Emmanuel II. Corporate

secretary

of Garden State Fireworks, Santore is also the telephone voice of

the company — based in Millington (Passaic County), New Jersey,

but producer of world-wide fireworks displays for innumerable events

and occasions — Statue of Liberty centennial, Olympic Winter

Games,

state of Vermont bicentennial, Goodwill Games in Russia.

The ideal time to talk with Santore is not during the days

and weeks leading up to July Fourth, but even so, she obliges with

ready knowledge of the field her family has starred in for so long.

Fireworks are used to celebrate all kinds of occasions, she says,

specifying christenings, bar mitzvahs, corporate parties,

anniversaries,

and family reunions among them. In 1997-98, Garden State Fireworks

produced six displays for Princeton University’s 250th anniversary,

drawing rave reviews from administrators and alumni alike. Its use

of traditional university music and a special version of the 250th

logo — or as Santore calls it, "a ground piece on

scaffolding,"

came in for special mention.

Surprisingly, Santore says there can be too much of a good thing,

even fireworks. Asked the minimum length for a good show, she

immediately

responds, "Don’t go over 20 minutes. It can seem very long."

However, where prices are concerned, "the sky’s the limit;"

a fireworks show can cost whatever the customer wants to spend.

Without

gulping at the reported $150,000 for the Brooklyn Bridge Centennial,

Santore mentions an event Garden State Fireworks will produce for

50 people at a private party on July Fourth: four miles of beach front

and three fireworks barges — for a sum greater than that for the

bridge fete. On the other hand, $5,000 displays are also possible.

As might be expected, Garden State Fireworks business comes from

word-of-month

reports of sight-of-eyes. "Once we know the budget figure for

a fireworks display, we make a proposal," Santore says. "We

tell them what we can do for that amount." Most people have no

idea what to ask for, what to call what they see. They might request

specific colors to be involved, but that’s about it.

Licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and insured

to the hilt, Garden State Fireworks is a "turn-key operation,"

Santore says. "We do everything but the fire permit," which

the customer takes care of because the price is often lower then.

Even at that, she often invites customers to fax the form to her for

completion. Santore says the workforce grows at this time of year

to accommodate the great number of jobs in July. But those who do

the pyrotechnic work are "highly trained" returnees —

doctors, lawyers, teachers, the whole gamut. These people have worked

only with the year-round crews till judged fit to work alone, and

they’re categorized by trade titles — with handles like

"apprentice,"

"lead pyrotechnician," and so on.

Safety considerations are always paramount, starting with production

of fireworks materials. Garden State Fireworks makes, and tests, its

own in a setting Santore says "looks like an army camp," with

buildings spaced far apart. The company tests each batch, and if the

chemicals aren’t pure, if things aren’t right, they scrap it and start

over again. Fireworks have an indefinite shelf life, and they’re

waterproof

and fire-proof both. The show will go on through rain and snow, but

very high winds, say, over 25 mph, could force cancellation of a

display.

And yes, there are secret recipes for Garden State Fireworks

specialties,

which Santore indicates rivals would dearly love to have. At show

time, the customer puts up and staffs the perimeter of the display

area, while Garden State Fireworks is responsible for what goes on

inside that safety zone.

"The art is gone," Santore says of much of the competition.

She has just described one of her company’s specialties —

"Italian-style

multi-break exhibition’ style" — as "very complicated

shells within shells within shells," with maybe 300 components

in any one shell that go off 10, 15, 20 times. The firm’s annual July

display for Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Berkeley Heights, joins this

Italian tradition with unusual groundwork for a spectacular event

that people travel from all over to enjoy. Although many towns can’t

afford the exorbitant cost of choreographing fireworks to music —

a highly time-consuming and precise art — Garden State Fireworks

has produced them since the ’80s, and offers hand, electrical, or

computer firings.

This year, Willingboro will have a "huge"

display

for the Fourth. Other area venues where Garden State Fireworks

artistry

will be on aerial and ground view celebrating independence include

New Brunswick and East Brunswick, Piscataway, Atco Raceway, Monroe

and Winslow Townships. And after all that, together with shows as

far flung as Nantucket, Massachusetts, and Colorado, there’s no such

thing as a slow season for Garden State Fireworks, Santore says. As

"the oldest and largest American manufacturer of display

fireworks"

the company is a major supplier to, among others, the Disney

organization,

world’s largest consumer of fireworks.

By now it’s evident: Fireworks are universal, something everybody

recognizes and delights in, however fleetingly. Their ephemeral beauty

and dramatic effects, like so many other transient pleasures, are

not for the indecisive; they must be savored on the spot.

Understandably,

fireworks’ siren song also reaches underground pyrotechnicians, or

"basement bombers" as they’re also sometimes called —

those who produce their own fireworks displays without legal sanction.

At least one such "private specialist" waxes no less than

rhapsodic on the subject of fireworks: "Like roller coasters and

rock concerts, they provide a brief but intense intoxication that

leaves no hangover," he writes from deep cover. "Attending

fireworks shows while at rock concerts or on a roller coaster is close

to nirvana." Probably aware of the symbolic fireworks scene in

"To Catch a Thief," he recommends fireworks for weddings —

"What better way to celebrate the union of two people than letting

the world know by lighting up the heavens!"

A sharing sort, he goes on: "Firecrackers are a good way of

letting

the neighbors know you’re planning something fun — come on down.

They also let the police know this, so choose your invitation times

wisely."

But even at New Year’s, he notes, "The police would rather be

celebrating or taking out drunk drivers than spoiling a little good

clean fun." Discretion seems to be the better part of valor here,

and even when that fails, "Twice I had the police wait till my

finale ended to come and remind me that I was doing wrong. I didn’t

antagonize them by firing off any more." It takes not just

pyrotechnic

prowess, but people skills, too.

So it’s fireworks for the Fourth. But not only that day: if you play

your cards right, you can pull from our pyrotechnics listing below

to plot a "watching route" starting days before, and working

through all possible rain dates afterwards. Then, every evening at

dusk, just head out — and look up. Ka-boom!

Firework Schedule

Top Of Page
Thursday, June 29

Montgomery Township, Orchard Hill Elementary School,

908-359-7003.

Celebration starts with music, games, rides, and food sales. Fireworks

begin at dusk. Raindate is Friday, June 30. Free. 6 p.m.

Top Of Page
Friday, June 30

Two Cities, Two States, Philadelphia and Camden

waterfronts,

800-770-5883. Music on Penn’s Landing by the Elgins and the Blue Note,

followed by fireworks over the river. Free. 7:30 p.m.

Top Of Page
Saturday, July 1

Hillsborough, Auten Road School, 908-369-4313.

"Showcase

2000," a variety show by talented individuals and groups.

Fireworks

at dusk. 7:30 p.m.

All-American Celebration, New Jersey Symphony

Orchestra ,

Mercer County Park, West Windsor, 800-ALLEGRO. Mercer County

celebrates with a free outdoor concert followed by fireworks.

Conductor

Harvey Felder leads the orchestra in a patriotic program that includes

Tchaikovsky’s "1812 Overture." Free. 7:30 p.m.

Spirit of Princeton, Princeton University Fields,

Washington

Road, 609-924-3118. A Garden State Fireworks display by Spirit of

Princeton citizens’ committee. Raindate is July 2. 9:15 p.m.

Top Of Page
Sunday, July 2

City of Trenton, Labor Department Lot, South Market

Street,

609-777-1770. Trenton’s salsa band Latin Flavor entertains with a

concert, followed by fireworks display at dark. Free. 7 p.m.

East Windsor Township, Etra Lake Park, 609-443-4000.

Celebration

begins with music of John Philip Sousa performed by Jerry Rife’s Band,

followed by the Trenton Brass, and fireworks. Raindate is July 3.

6 p.m.

Freehold Boro, Freehold Raceway, Route 33, 732-946-2711.

Celebration features rides, music, food, and vendors. Music, magic,

stiltwalking, and juggling. Fireworks at 9 p.m. 10 a.m.

Mercer County Park, 609-989-6530. The Mahoney Brothers

play music of "Jukebox Heroes & Beatlemania," followed by

fireworks. Bring your picnic and blanket. Free. 8 p.m.

Memorial Park, Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, 888-JimThorpe.

Picnic and entertainment all day followed by fireworks at dark. Free.

8 p.m.

Top Of Page
Monday, July 3

Hamilton Township, Veterans Park, 609-890-3684. Music

by the Mahoney Brothers followed by fireworks at dusk. Raindate is

July 5. Free. 7:30 p.m.

Lawrence Township, Rider University, 609-844-7065.

Community

Band performs followed by fireworks at dusk. Raindate is Friday, July

7. Free. 7 p.m.

Manasquan Beach, Main Beach, 732-223-0544. Outdoor concert

by the Nick Perrone Band followed by a millennium fireworks display

at dusk. Raindate is July 5. Free. 7 p.m.

Marine Park, Warf Avenue, Red Bank, 888-447-8696.

Festivities

begin at dusk featuring fireworks over the river by Grucci. 7

p.m.

Wall Township, Municipal Complex, 732-449-8444. Family

events at 6:30 p.m. with kids races and music by Bill Turner & Blue

Smoke. Fireworks by Girone follows at 9 p.m. 6:30 p.m.

Top Of Page
Tuesday, July 4

Trenton Thunder, Waterfront Park, Trenton 609-394-8326.

The Thunder vs. New Haven. Old Navy Flag Day gives a flag to every

fan. Firework display follows the game. 7:05 p.m.

Ewing Township, Parkside and Olden, 609-883-2900. Parade

proceeds up the parkway to the high school. At 7 p.m. a concert

features

a 16-piece big band, followed by fireworks at dusk on the College

of New Jersey athletic field off Green Lane. Free. 10 a.m.

Red, White & Blue Fireworks, Bay Beach, Beach Haven,

609-492-2800. Over the bay. 9 p.m.

Bordentown Township, North Community Park on Groville

Road, 609-298-2800. Entertainment followed by fireworks. Raindate

is July 8. 7:30 p.m.

Oceanfest 2000, Long Branch, Oceanfront Promenade,

732-222-0400. Sandcastle building competition, basketball tournament,

children’s activities, music, clowns, and food. The day culminates

with a world-class fireworks on the beach below the promenade. Free.

10 a.m.

Macy’s Salutes OpSail 2000, New York Harbor, 212-435-2665.

OpSail 2000, a parade of over 100 tall ships from around the world,

takes place throughout the day. At dark, a colossal fireworks display

over the water. Web: www.opsail2000event.org. Free. 9 p.m.

Ocean City, On the football field at 6th Street, off

Boardwalk,

609-525-9300. Festivies begin with bike parades at each end of town

with fireworks at dusk. 11 a.m.

Celebrate America, Philadelphia, Ben Franklin

Parkway,

800-770-5883. Celebrate America in America’s Birthplace concert and

fireworks display. Web: www.Americasbirthday.com. 7 p.m.

Point Pleasant Beach, 732-892-0844. Independence Day

fireworks

show on the South Beach at dusk, with shows every Thursday night until

Labor Day. Free. 9 p.m.

Fireworks, Seaside Heights, Boardwalk & Webster

Avenue, 800-732-7467. Fireworks displays from the beach. 9 p.m.


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