Firework Displays

Everybody loves fireworks displays. After all, an explosion of pyrotechnics, replete with vivid colors, booming sounds, shrill whistles and resounding tremors makes for the ultimate thrill.

But while a fireworks display is lots of fun for spectators, it takes a tremendous effort and a lot of hard work to put together. In fact, a 25-minute fireworks show ordinarily requires weeks of planning as well as about twelve hours of labor to prepare and set up.

By definition, fireworks are low-level explosive devices. Some of them can be used for military and industrial purposes, but most fireworks are used for entertainment and celebration.

Four Main Elements of Pyrotechnic Display

The four primary effects of fireworks are noise, light, smoke and floating materials (such as confetti and other near-weightless objects). Taken alone or in combination, they can create a vision and a sensation of utter electricity in a crowd of “oohers” and “aahers.”

Fireworks displays are popular worldwide for all kinds of occasions. In America, they”re most prevalent during the Fourth of July celebration, which heralds the freedom and independence of the thirteen revolutionary colonies from the imperial rule of Mother England.

Firework Records

The world”s largest firework was discharged on July 15, 1988 at the Lake Toya Firework Festival in Hokkaido, Japan. The Universe I Part II firework weighed 1,543 pounds and produced a light burst measuring 3/4 mile in diameter!

The world”s longest fireworks display took place on February 20, 1988 in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Including more than 3.3 million firecrackers and containing 1,468 pounds of gunpowder it burned for 9 hours and 27 minutes!

Types of Fireworks Used in Shows

Display fireworks are the larger ones used in professional shows while consumer fireworks are smaller ones like firecrackers that individuals can buy within the statutes of law. Display fireworks are classified officially as “1.3G.” Consumer fireworks are classified as “1.4G.”

Many types of pyrotechnics are used in fireworks shows. In their most basic terms, they can be classified according to whether they are released on the ground or in the air.

These include skyrockets (one of the most common forms of fireworks), aerial shells (the mainstay of today”s commercial shows) and festival balls, smaller versions of aerial shells that are growing in popularity at fireworks displays.

Fireworks Displays Near You

Looking for a local fireworks display for 4th of July? Follow the link to firework shows by state.

Fascinating Firework Facts

  • A firework typically travels three to seven seconds before bursting in the sky.
  • After bursting, it remains visible for two to five seconds.
  • A typical 10 to 12-inch firework will rise to as much as 1,300 feet before bursting.

Firework Ingredients

The basic ingredient in all fireworks, from the largest aerial shell to the smallest firecracker, is gunpowder, which is made up of:

  • 75% saltpeter (potassium nitrate)
  • 15% charcoal
  • 10% sulfur.

Perhaps the most dazzling element of a commercial firework show is the blazing color that explodes so magnificently against the night sky. Adding chemical salts to the gunpowder creates this extraordinary color effect. Different types of salt make for different colors:

Color Ingredient
Red strontium salts
Orange calcium salts
Yellow sodium salts
Green barium salts
Blue copper salts
Purple strontium + copper salts
Silver aluminum, titanium or magnesium
White barium oxide or superheated magnesium or aluminum