Jacksonville Beach Fourth Of July Fireworks Have Been A Year In The Making

Jun 29, 2018

A lot of people will be ending their Wednesday sitting on blankets on the beach watching fireworks over the Atlantic.

Danny Turner is a general manager for the company Pyro Shows, and he’s in charge of the Jacksonville Beach display. He said planning for next year’s show will start July 5 with a post mortem.

“We will actually perform for approximately 450 different audiences across the country doing their Independence Day shows,” Turner said.

And although he’d love to say they’re the most in-demand company, it’s fireworks in general that are in demand.

“There are a lot more shows that don’t get shot just because we don’t have the availability as an industry,” he said.

Regardless of how the economy’s doing, he says, people expect to see fireworks on July 4. And they don’t come cheap, about $1,000 a minute.

Turner said cities will tell his company how much they want to spend, and Pyro Shows tailors a show to their budget.

“So literally every show that we do is a custom show,” Turner said.

Jacksonville Beach budgeted $40,000 for the fireworks show. That’s made up of $25,000 from the City of Jacksonville, which is the payment to Pyro, and $15,000 will go toward security, fencing and temporary restrooms.

Jacksonville Beach Parks and Rec Director Jason Phitides said that doesn’t include the extra police and fire hours to supervise the event.

Turner said planning for next year’s show really gets going in October or November.

“We actually start laying out - ‘OK, this is the product that’s going to go in the show,’ “ he said.

The company employs designers who know how to make the right combination of explosions to evoke ohhs and ahhs.

Turner is not a designer, but he knows more than most people.

“They kind of do it in what we refer to as scenes,” he said. “So you’re not going to do  a chrysanthemum, willow, peony crossette all at one time.

Obviously.

“It would kind of be like scribbling a bunch of stuff on a piece of notebook paper at that point,” Turner said.

After Jacksonville Beach decides “OK, yes, we like the design,” Turner starts meeting with the fire department, the parks and rec department and others in January and February. Those talks have led to this week’s set-up.

“There’s a lot of manual labor,” he said. “Our racks that we shoot the fireworks from weigh anywhere from 30-60 pounds a piece.”

Those have to be lugged down to the end of the pier. Next: the assembly, hammering nails and  shoveling sand.

“When that’s all set and secure we’ll actually start loading the product,” he said. “Then you kind of become an electrician at that point.”

The fireworks are wired into a firing system. This set-up process takes, five people working approximately three,  12-hour days.

“We’re probably looking at close to 30 miles of wiring to make the show go,” Turner said.

He estimates the whole set-up is probably 100 feet long and as wide as the pier with some walking room.  

And when it’s show time, he says his team is on the pier — with the fire department supervising nearby — to finally flip the switch.

“It’s funny, everybody sees the explosion and everybody thinks ‘oh, we’re going to go light some fireworks,’ and we do that, but that part of the job is actually a very small percentage of what we do,” he said.

The Jacksonville Beach fireworks display is on July 4 starting at 9 p.m.

Photo used under Creative Commons.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at@lindskilbride.