Every year Americans across the nation gather wherever they can to celebrate the Fourth of July and to remember our nation's independence with fireworks.
What might not be apparent amid the shells exploding colorfully to light up the night sky are the months of work and preparation involved in putting on the memorable celebrations.
Gary Brumbaugh of Brumbaugh's Fireworks Display Inc. has been in the fireworks business for 12 years. Preparing up to 17 local shows a year, BFD, out of Williamsburg, takes many security measures and safety precautions.
Mirror file photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Fireworks will be set off across the area tonight, and those who organize the shows say the evening takes months of planning.
"We always have a yearly training session," Brumbaugh said.
"Everyone that helps me has to have an ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] background check," he said. "When putting on a show we use basic fire resistant suits, hard hats and safety goggles."
BFD is preparing Lakemont Park's Independence Day fireworks show scheduled for 10 p.m. today. The show is booked in the fall, and BFD begins planning months in advance, according to Lakemont Park General Manager Melissa Vyborny.
Times are approximate
Summer Thunder 2013
DelGrosso's Amusement Park, Tipton
Start: Preshow at 10 p.m.; main show 10:30 p.m.
Independence Day Show
Lakemont Park, Altoona
Start: 10 p.m.
Peoples Natural Gas Field, Altoona
Start: After Curve vs. Sea Wolves game
4th Fest, State College
Near Beaver Stadium
Start: 9:15 p.m.
Fort Bedford Park, Bedford
July 4 & 6
The Park at Morrisons Cove, Martinsburg
Start: 10:15 p.m.
"We tell them basically what we want; the length of the show, how we want it to look and how quickly we want the fireworks shot," Vyborny said. "We give them an idea of how the show should go, and Gary puts the show together based on what we want."
BFD uses Class B fireworks which, according to Brumbaugh, are the most powerful, and approximately 200 effects are being used in the show. With powerful shells, Brumbaugh takes every safety measure he can from waterproof equipment to static electricity precautions.
"We make sure there are no phones taken into the storage facilities," Brumbaugh said. "Everything is kept in cardboard boxes to keep static down. There is no form of electricity allowed near the fireworks, and no metal is allowed inside storage."
Inclement weather is not an issue for BFD. The company uses waterproof equipment and, according to Vyborny, high winds would be one of the only things to pose a threat to the show.
Just miles away from Lakemont Park's celebration, Summer Thunder 2013 is being held at Delgrosso's Amusement Park with a preshow beginning at 10 p.m. today.
"Planning for this year's show began in January or February," DelGrosso's Director of Marketing Amy Mearkle said. "The company we use prepares off-site for a few months and comes in two days before the actual show to prepare on site."
Arthur Rozzi Pyrotechnic, a professional fireworks display company from Maineville, Ohio, spends months working on Summer Thunder. ARP also supplies the fireworks, which are custom shells built by the company.
"The fireworks are set off far away from where the park guests view them," Mearkle said. "They rope off the entire area where the show is set. They make sure it's a fun show for everybody but a safe one as well."
The computer-generated show is set off in a large field behind Delgrosso's Foods, according to Mearkle.
The Delgrosso Family of Companies has put on its Independence Day celebration Summer Thunder for more than 50 years. This year's show is titled "A Salute to the Blue & Gray: Remembering the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg," according to a June news release.
Unlike Lakemont Park, whose show is paid for by the park, Summer Thunder is paid for by sponsors including Delgrosso Foods Inc., Allied Milk Producers, Burgmeier Hauling, First Commonwealth Bank, Imler's Poultry, Tri-Star Ford, Froggy 98 and WTAJ-TV.
Each year Summer Thunder is set to music, and the soundtrack is produced months before the show.
"This year our theme is a tribute to the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg," Mearkle said. "There are Civil War songs that are a part of the music track and a lot of other patriotic songs, and I think it's very neat to be able to take the pyrotechnics and put it to this great music score."
On such an important day in American history, each show is prepared with care and much thought so that the atmosphere is one of patriotism and unity.
"It's neat for us to watch those months of planning come together for a great fireworks spectacular," Mearkle said.