By Suzanne Schmidt
When many people think of the Fourth of July, they think of fireworks.
At Sparklebration in Dade City, visitors will be treated to a high-intensity show by Zambelli Fireworks with all different colors and types of fireworks exploding in the sky.
Mason Meyer is the southeast regional office manager for Zambelli. He is also a trained firework technician at the 120-year-old company. With so many shows and options of different types of fireworks, Meyer said each show is different.
“It just depends on who the fireworks technician is,” Meyer said. “There will be a typical opening then the main body of the show will be high intensity and then there will be a finale. We pride ourselves in having the largest finale in the fireworks industry.”
He said he had to go to a lot of training through the American Pyrotechnic Association, a national group of advocates for the safety of fireworks.
“I had to do a combination of classroom and hands-on training,” Meyer said. “All of our technicians have gone through the training. I have two goals, keeping the technicians and the crowd safe. We always try to put on a good quality show, but not at the sake of safety.”
The southeast office he works at is in Boca Raton. He said his company will put on 500 to 600 shows the weekend of July 4, with 55 of those shows in Florida.
Even though safety is the first priority, quality is a close second.
“We try to select the best fireworks that will give the best effect,” Meyer said. “We work with different manufacturers to get specific colors and effects. We go to specific manufacturers for specific colors like red peony or blue chrysanthemum. We also shop around for the best effects like sparkling palm trees, hearts and smiley faces.”
Meyer said he tries to please the crowd.
“Some of the crowd favorites are the Saturn shells and the titanium salutes,” Meyer said. “The Saturn shells shoot up and they look like Saturn with the ring around it. The titanium shells are good for the people who love the noise. They send up brilliant white flashes and are really loud.”
Fireworks by Santore and Sons in Bunnell provides fireworks to Zambelli Fireworks as well as companies and organizations throughout the world.
Anthony Santore is the CEO and vice president of the company that his grandfather August Santore started in 1890. The company manufactures theatrical pyrotechnics for all different venues in the entertainment industry including theme parks and sporting events. The company also employs technicians to set off the fireworks.
Santore said many people do not realize the amount of work that goes into manufacturing a firework.
“It is a long process to a finished product,” Santore said. “We start with a chemical mixed with component parts. The chemical is then loaded into the casing. There is a long process to wrap the casings.”
Fireworks have not changed much through the years except in the way they are launched.
“Many modern pyrotechnics are based on a cannon style rather than a rocket style meaning they don’t have their own propellant,” Santore said. “The height and the burst time of the pyrotechnic is controlled by the time and amount of charge.”
The process of manufacturing fireworks is very complex.
“We have to follow a certain set of procedures to reproduce the same effects again and again,” Santore said. “It takes months and months of preparation for any holiday. We have some custom machinery that does a few of the pieces but all the fireworks are made by hand. It is no different than manufacturing other explosive materials.”
Santore said there are two different kinds of effects.
“There is the Saturn shell and the pattern shell,” Santore said. “Each one produces a different pattern in the sky, which is done by the casing. There are a lot of formulas and geometry involved.”
A popular firework is the weeping willow shell, which is made of a slow burning compound.
“It is made with a symmetrical break of stars that are designed to burn for a longer duration,” Santore said. “When the stars reach the outer position they start burning and continue to burn as they fall.”
Safety is the most important thing at Santore’s manufacturing plant.
“Our facilities are regulated by federal, state and on the local level,” Santore said. “We have our employees go through extreme background checks, drug testing and preemptive screening and training. Once a person is hired, they apprentice for a year before they are given their own task. Then after that they are paired up with a trained technician. It is a very long process before they can become the crew lead.”
For more information about Fireworks by Santore and Sons, visit www.santorepyro.com. For more information about Zambelli Fireworks, visit www.zambellifireworks.com.
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