Behind the scenes of a fireworks display

Money, preparation, safety

BETTENDORF, Iowa - Fireworks are a huge part of Fourth of July tradition across the country, and lots of preparation goes into each professional display across the area. 

That goes for the fireworks display in Bettendorf on Tuesday, put on by J&M Displays. 

"There's a lot that can go wrong, and potentially be very dangerous," said firework shooter Kevin Clark.

The company has a rule that for every inch of shell, there has to be 100 ft. cleared off. So, for the display on Tuesday there was a clearing 500 ft. in diameter. Keeping the public away from the shooting site is their main safety priority. 

"Even with all the signs up saying 'Do not enter' you'll turn around and have a family walking up here and if anything goes wrong one of these shells has about a 500 ft, spread," said Clark. "So it could potentially hurt somebody pretty bad. So, that's our biggest safety concern is keeping a vigilant eye out to make sure we don't have any pedestrians coming into our area when they're not supposed to be here."

Crews were on site at about 8 a.m. on Tuesday setting up the site. They cleared it off, and set out the fiber glass tubes with connected switches and wires. Then, the shells were hand placed in each tube. The crews worked until about an hour before show time. 

"Once you hit the switch, it sends an electric charge to an electric match and lets it go," said Clark.

The pyrotechnics on Tuesday included 1,168 shots, that were released at about 100 shots for every 6.5 minutes of show. That includes a grand finales, that takes up about half of those shots. The entire 30 minute display was timed specifically to music put out by J&M Displays.

Clark shot the fireworks off, and he had an assistant who helped him time it all out. The rest of the crew patrolled the perimeter and kept the site secured. 

"If I get too far ahead, slow the show down," said Clark. "If I'm getting behind, speed the show up, and hopefully at the end we hopefully end right on cue with the music."

After many shows in many cities, the end product is still Clark's favorite part. 
"It's a lot of work to set up, but for that half hour it's a lot of fun," said Clark. "It's interesting. When you're at a distance you can see everything but right underneath you can see all the sparks that linger about 100 ft. above your head and it's really unique view from here."

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