Behind the big booms, light show on 4th, plenty of work

Shawn Hardy of Liberty Pyrotechnics shows the “cake” firework box at left, one of 10 that comprised the grand finale for Peachtree City’s annual July 4 fireworks show last week. Photo/John Munford.

As the rain left the area in plenty of time, there was again much to enjoy about Peachtree City’s annual fireworks display July 4th.

But there’s plenty of work done in advance to make sure the show goes off smoothly, according to Shawn Hardy of Liberty Pyrotechnics.

The display was actually prepared several days in advance, with security staying on-site 24 hours a day until after the big show.

It took two days to set up the show, working 12 hours a day in the 100-degree temperatures.

“We try to work from first light, and we work until midnight, so everybody’s just so exhausted they cannot go anymore,” Hardy said.

The firework shells are actually contained in tubes anchored down on plywood racks with a 100-foot safety perimeter in mind. Underneath each shell is the “lift charge” explosive that propels it skyward, Hardy explained.

After the tubes are loaded, the process of wiring the explosives begins. Each shell is electronically fired via a panel of switches.

“Each one of these shells is electronically matched, and we have 960 shells in this show,” Hardy said. “Plus we have 10 two-inch cakes that will actually go up in the air about 300 feet.”

The “cakes” sweetened the end of the show as they are used for the show’s grand finale, Hardy said.

“It’s one of those things where it doesn’t stop until its finished,” he said. “You don’t have to keep pushing buttons for each shell, it just goes continuously.”

After the fireworks show, the racks are cooled down for 30 minutes and then checked to make sure all the shells fired, Hardy said.

If some shells didn’t fire, they can either be fired afterward or Liberty will take it home and give the city a credit on their bill, he added.

After all that is determined, the racks and tubes are torn down on the spot, “and then you go back to the hotel, and then you die,” Hardy said. “Or then you go to Waffle House and then you go back to the hotel and then you die.”

“It is a lot of hard work, but in the end to hear people cheer and yell across the lake, that makes it all worthwhile,” Hardy said.

He noted that there will be a shooter’s school in March to try and identify potential new employees for Liberty, which is based in Joplin, Mo. The school will probably be in Statesboro, Ga. and more information will be made available at libertypyro.com.

“It is a lot of fun,” Hardy said. “Who else gets to blow up stuff for a living, and be legal?”

Hardy was also very complimentary of city residents, several of whom checked on him and his family on the site. This year they rented a golf cart and got even more of the Peachtree City experience.

“I may even move here one of these days,” Hardy said.

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