Fireworks 2020

My Amateur Backyard Fireworks Show – 2020

Once again I put on a fireworks show for the Fourth of July. As per my standard, each year becomes bigger and better. However, this year was difficult because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Read on to see the show, preparation, bloopers, and lessons learned.

Here is the full video of the show!

The Perfect Storm

Planning for the show this year started in February. The 2 biggest sales periods are the 4th of July and New Years. The best prices can be had either immediately after the 4th of July and in February / March. I purchased in late February from OC Fireworks. I had purchased from them last year and was happy with the goods.

It was more difficult to get the fireworks I wanted both in quantity and price. I’ll quote and paraphrase and email between me and my supplier to illustrate the challenges:

There are 3 separate issues afffecting pricing and selection this year. November factory explosions prompted the Chinese government to close all factories for about 45 days. Then the tariff that went into effect in the fall but was retracted in December. Then COVID-19 came.

Prices were high and selection was limited. I got less bang for my buck this year but still made it work. Looking forward to a better future!

Show Breakdown

Fireworks were broken down into 2 categories:

  • Total Shells = 168
  • Total Cakes = 68

That’s 236 distinct things to light on fire. The challenge this year was to put it to music.

Inventory
Timing

I had enought for a solid 5 songs making it between 15 and 20 minutes. Playlist:

The music was part of the video captured by an iPhone. It was drowned out a bit by the very loud booms in the air.

My Favorite Parts

In my head I was planning something like this:

V for Vendetta

However that didn’t manifest as I hoped. Nonetheless, here are the highlights and my favorite parts of the show in sequence:

  • Intro from 0:33 – 1:16
  • End of the intro at 3:20 – 3:45
  • The whole second song 3:55 – 8:00
  • The ending of the second song 7:30 – 8:30 (the timing worked out perfectly with the crescendo of the song)
  • The accidental finale in the middle of the show 8:15 – 10:22
  • The real finale 15:15 to end

Preparation

Fireworks cannot be shipped by air or with the USPS or FedEx or UPS – they must be shipped on a freight truck. Here’s what brought the load this year:

In order to time the fireworks to music I had to buy a bunch of different speed fuses to control the burn. This is a poor man’s way of creating timed sequence without a firing system – this was to compensate for not enough queues on the firing module.

Here’s a test of the fuses from fastest to slowest:

A walkthrough of the show:

Lessons Learned

Not everything went to plan. I learned a few things this year that I’ll remember and incorporate next year:

  • Cut off the paper from the cakes and pop off the plastic caps of the shells to reduce the amount of debris (I made it rain)
  • Plan on prepping the day before – do everything except the wiring and fusing. It took about 8 hours, with help, to get everything placed and glued down to the boards
  • More boards makes this a lot easier – need more for next year. Things were too close and a firework ended up hitting another firework and lit fuses and accidently launched things I intended for later.
  • Because fusing is to tedious, next year I’ll invest in another firing module. It is so much easier to plug in the talon clips than to fuses things
  • Use better tape – the duct tape failed on some fuses so use aluminum silver HVAC tape instead (heat guarded)
  • Wind – not sure what I can do about that. You don’t want to tilt the boards too much because it is unsafe to fire from a sloped platform – we leveled all the boards.
  • The timing could be improved – it was some guesswork with what fires during the part of a song. I tried to match as best I could.
  • I liked the slow parts better than the fast. It’s important to have that contrast.
  • We filmed this in portrait mode on the iPhone – should have use landscape.

Bloopers

There was a misfire in the middle of the show. When the 3rd song started one of the fireworks was angeled toward another firework that also shot at the same time. They hit each other a few feet off the ground and part dropped and caught all the fuses on the board on fire. Most of this was intended for the finale.

I’ll leave you with my launch setup around 10pm – it is never too late for coffee!

The remote, timing instructions, and coffee

If you liked this post then you might also like my post about My Amateur Backyard Fireworks Show – 2019

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