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Behind the fireworks

Sam Bruggema of Pyro Spectaculars, Inc. prepares a fireworks display. (courtesy of Pyro Spectaculars, Inc.)

Behind the fireworks

Every Fourth of July, the evening stars take a backseat to a manmade specular that lights up the skyline. At the Scripps Mesa Fireworks celebration, more than 20,000 spectators are expected to be on hand to experience each starburst as it explodes over Mira Mesa High School.

Thousands will stand shoulder-to-shoulder scanning the horizon, watching in awe as a barrage of explosions morph into a pyrotechnic aerial ballet.

From start to finish, most shows last fewer than 20 minutes. However, to create those magical minutes requires numerous days of preparation.

“To pre-produce a large fireworks display can take weeks, even months,” said Sam Bruggema of Pyro Spectaculars, Inc. “It all begins with obtaining the necessary permits and other miscellaneous reams of red tape needed to satisfy city officials and environmental groups.”

Once all the paper work is in place, Bruggema prepares to coordinate his explosions with KYXY Radio’s soundtrack.

“KYXY is the official fireworks radio network,” said John D’Angelo, KYXY promotions director. “We work with Pyro Spectaculars; they organize the actual fireworks show. We provide them with the soundtrack that is a mix of songs we play on the air and patriotic music. We want to create a fun Fourth of July experience and are proud to be part of the celebration.”

“KYXY creates the soundtrack, they give it to me and I create the choreography,” Bruggema said. “Depending on how complex the show is, it usually takes me between one to two hours per minute of music to produce a perfectly timed show.”

Once all the music cues are set in place, Bruggema sends the information to his company’s main plant in Rialto, California. The technicians in Rialto select all the fireworks, put music cue numbers on each group of fireworks then box everything up until show time.

A few days before the event, Bruggema puts on his producer hat and begins organizing the music tracks and the fireworks. His task is to synchronize the various pyro explosions with KYXY’s music track.

“The computer software I use allows me to choose a particular point in the music when a specific pyro should be set off,” Bruggema said. “We have a music cue point set in the computer that back-times the music to the pyro. This allows us to tell the onsite operator precisely when to launch a specific pyro event. This is how we match each explosion with each music cue.”

The result of countless man-hours combined with decades of experience and state-of-the-art computer technology is a perfectly timed mix of music and fireworks.

Depending upon the complexity and length of the show, Bruggema estimates that it takes him about three or more days to orchestrate a 20-minute presentation. The Scripps Mesa Fireworks spectacle breaks down to about an hour per minute of performance time.

Since the Scripps Mesa Fireworks event is on the KYXY 96.5 Fireworks radio network, anyone with an ear bud or a boom box can enjoy a synchronized combination of pyro excitement, timed perfectly with a patriotic music track.

The show will start promptly at 9 p.m. on July 4. The fireworks will be set off at Mira Mesa High School. Recommended viewing spots are at Mira Mesa Mall, Mira Mesa Community Park, Mesa Verde Park, Mira Mesa Senior Center and any of the higher elevations of Scripps Ranch that overlook Mira Mesa. 

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