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Countdown to Blast-Off: Preparing for the Macy's Fireworks Show in Staten Island

Friday, July 01, 2011

Preparations wrap up for the 35th Anual Macy's 4th of July Fireworks. Preparations wrap up for the 35th Anual Macy's 4th of July Fireworks. (Erica Getto)

At an undisclosed pier in in Staten Island, packaged mortars are dispersed among six barges, nearly all of them covered by colored tarps. The Macy’s logo lines the pier -- plastered on trucks, banners, and half-lit billboards, its signature red star is perhaps the most recognizable feature of the otherwise nondescript setting.

A closer look, however, reveals signs saying “Fire Works Stay Clear,” and an inquiry or two reveals that the mortars contain firework shells, carefully organized for the Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks show. For the past two weeks, 60 licensed pyrotechnicians have been wiring and packaging over 40,000 of these firework shells in preparation for the show’s 35th anniversary.

On the barges, each shell is nearly indistinguishable from its counterparts. During Monday night’s 25-minute spectacular, however, over 50 different colors and 17 different shapes will reveal themselves over the Hudson River.

“The shapes vary from things like jelly fish to star patterns to smiley faces and hearts and flowers as well as the traditional … huge bursts that you expect to see in a fireworks show this big,” said Amy Kule, the show’s executive producer.

The shells vary in size — from 1” to 10” in diameter — figures that reflect the height at which each firework bursts. Each one is programmed to a synchronized musical score.

Christopher Souza, operations manager for the show, described Macy's intricately planned program.

“Each part of the music has its own color sequences and there’s emotional scenes and there’s majestic cascades," he said. "A wide range of colors from the primaries to the pastels. It’s a wonderful display.”

Souza’s uncle Gary Souza designed the show. For over 20 years, their five-generational family business, Pyro Spectaculars by Souza, has designed and executed the fireworks display for Macy’s.

The show begins on Monday night at around 9:20 P.M. along Manhattan’s West side. In addition to six designated viewing locations, the show will be broadcast during an NBC special that kicks off at 9 P.M. and is hosted by Nick Lachey. The show will feature performances by both Beyoncé and Brad Paisley.

Click below to see some images of the team getting the fireworks ready to go on the pier.

A view from the pier depicts six barges upon which nearly 40,000 firework shells have already been packaged.
Erica Getto/WNYC
A view from the pier depicts six barges upon which nearly 40,000 firework shells have already been packaged.
A close-up of one of the mortars reveals color-coded fireworks shells and a lot of wires.
Erica Getto/WNYC
A close-up of one of the mortars reveals color-coded fireworks shells and a lot of wires.
A team of 60 licensed pyrotechnicians is required to organize the firework shells and mortars for Monday night's show.
Erica Getto/WNYC
A team of 60 licensed pyrotechnicians is required to organize the firework shells and mortars for Monday night's show.
Coded by size, color and time of release, packaged firework shells line one of the six barges.
Erica Getto/WNYC
Coded by size, color and time of release, packaged firework shells line one of the six barges.
More firework shells offer a preview of what is in store for Monday night's show.
Erica Getto/WNYC
More firework shells offer a preview of what is in store for Monday night's show.
Specially-designed mortars hold a set of pink fireworks.
Erica Getto/WNYC
Specially-designed mortars hold a set of pink fireworks.
The barges are restricted to licensed pyrotechnicians.
Erica Getto/WNYC
The barges are restricted to licensed pyrotechnicians.
At the far end of the pier, fireworks await casing.
Erica Getto/WNYC
At the far end of the pier, fireworks await casing.
A close-up of the fireworks before they are placed in their respective shells.
Erica Getto/WNYC
A close-up of the fireworks before they are placed in their respective shells.
An even closer look at the explosives before they are packaged.
Erica Getto/WNYC
An even closer look at the explosives before they are packaged.
One of 60 licensed pyrotechnicians secures firework shells in a color-coded mortar.
Erica Getto/WNYC
One of 60 licensed pyrotechnicians secures firework shells in a color-coded mortar.
These empty firework shells are among the last to be packaged.
Erica Getto/WNYC
These empty firework shells are among the last to be packaged.
Macy's billboards are also being prepared on the pier for Monday night's big show.
Erica Getto/WNYC
Macy's billboards are also being prepared on the pier for Monday night's big show.

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Comments [1]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

MUSIC AND FIREWORKS TOGETHER ARE LIKE MOTHERHOOD AND APPLE PIE !!! AMERICANA music includes all the formats that have transfigured our image from a concept of a melting pot to a vigorous happy extollment of our individual backgrounds of national origin, race, religion, and creed. Our country should revel in our diversity and expression of our individual cultures with their mores and ideals. This past Saturday, June 9th, I sang a program at the YOGA, RAW FOOD EXPO at the New Yorker Hotel entitled BRING HIM HOME, including that named selection from the Broadway musical LES MISERABLES. The selections relate to our times and our concerns, our love of country, especially to sustaining hope for a better world for all, free of the conflicts of war and with the most urgent concern to bring our troops back home. On Saturday September 8th, I will repeat the program, with 38 selections in a three hour concert, same title, at the Lake Hiawatha Library (NJ), starting at 1 PM. Included on the presentation will be The Impossible Dream [the Quest], Climb Ev'ry Mountain, The House I Live In, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, Do You Hear the People Sing?, When Johnnie Comes Marching Home, This Land is Your Land, You'll Never Walk Alone, Granada, Kimbaya, New York, New York, Billy Bigelow's Soliloquy from Carousel, There's No Business Like Show Business, St. Louis Blues, Dixie, Wien, Wien, nur du allein, My Old Kentucky Home, Carry Me Back TO Old Virginny, Easter Parade [Fifth Avenue figures here), San Francisco, Chicago, La Vie en Rose, Oh, What a Beautiful Morning, Some Enchanted Evening, Summertime, Deep in the Heart of Texas, Big D, I Love Paris in the Springtime, Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis, Oklahoma, On the Street Where You Live, Around the World, Arriverderci Roma, Valencia and Earth Anthem, which I premiered in 1998 as an environmental tribute to our MOTHER EARTH and 4 more numbers. I am a Wagnerian heldentenor and the director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, where professional actors are trained for the Shakespeare roles and big-voiced singers are coached in the Wagner roles and voice production and dramaturgy techniques. Websites: WagnerOpera.com, ShakespeareOpera.com, and RichardWagnerMusicDramaInstitute.com where one may download, free, 37 complete "Live from Carnegie Hall" selections that I have sung in four concerts, three of them three hours-long solo concerts and one concert, a Joint Recital with the dramatic soprano Norma Jean Erdmann, in the main hall of Carnegie Hall, the Isaac Stern Auditorium, by opening up, downloading, from the "Recorded Selections" venue.

Jul. 02 2012 03:44 PM

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