Here's What Goes Into Designing Those Amazing Fireworks Shows
On Her Roaring Start
I was born into the fireworks business. My grandparents started their company in 1945, and later my dad and uncle took over. Fireworks have always been a big part of my life. As a kid, I used to pick up pieces of paper debris off the ground after my dad's shows. Today I typically design between 12 and 20 displays each year as Lantis Fireworks and Lasers' head pyrotechnician.
On Playing With Fire
Meeting clients' expectations can be challenging. They usually say something like, "I want the one that's like a ball of fire." But our inventory has more than 2,000 varieties of fireworks, so I ask: Should the show be loud? Do you want it to look like an explosion of color? If it's a show for a nursing home, we might have vibrant fireworks that are also fairly quiet. If we're designing a huge Fourth of July production, we'll put in shells like the salute for a thundering blast.
For Lantis, a ten-minute fireworks display might require ten hours of setup and could include anywhere from 750 to 1500 shells.
Photo: Gene Horne
On Blowing a Fuse
You can create complex displays with electrical firing—meaning you program a computer to ignite the fireworks—but it doesn't compare to the thrill of hand-firing. When you hand-fire, you have to wear a lot of protective gear—flame-retardant clothing, a helmet, goggles, gloves—because you're lighting each individual fuse with a flare; you're inches from the firework as it goes off! I've designed more than 120 shows, and I'm still startled every time I ignite that first shell.
A sunflower firework.
Photo: Courtesy of Ken Lantis. Lantis Productions.
On Her Biggest Fan
When my daughter was 2 1/2, I let her attend one of my shows for the first time. I was worried she might freak out, but when I found her afterward, her eyes were wide with amazement. She shouted, "The booms, Mommy, the booms!" Now, for me, fireworks aren't really fireworks anymore—they're booms!