Hard work of fireworks crews should not go unnoticed
From the gathering-information perspective I take into a reporting assignment, one of the interesting things about the Rehoboth Beach fireworks is that they’re set off from the beach. While the end product is relatively the same as the other local displays, those are set off from the water – Delaware Bay for Lewes, Rehoboth Bay for Dewey. In Rehoboth, because the booms are over the beach, I get to speak with the pyrotechnicians as they set up.
This year, the fireworks were set off a couple blocks farther south than usual. The beach in front of Funland hasn’t fully recovered from the Mother’s Day weekend storm weeks ago, so the crew set up immediately south of the Star of the Sea Condominiums.
Lead pyrotechnician Cynthia Ferguson said there wasn’t any strategic change to setting up the fireworks in the new location. It’s still on the beach, she said.
Pyrotechnician Michael Pukatsch chimed in and said one noticeable difference was not being able to hear the noises coming from Funland customers, especially when the games facing the Boardwalk get loud and when people on the Haunted Mansion ride are on the part that’s outside, he said.
“I grew up coming to these fireworks as a kid,” said Pukatsch.
The workforce shortage is still taking its toll on local businesses. Zambelli’s is no different. Ferguson said she had to cancel five shows in Maryland this year because she could not find technicians.
“Would you want to do this all day?” she said, while quickly adding that she’s been doing Rehoboth’s fireworks for 15 years and it wasn’t going to be canceled.
There was a pair of Rehoboth Beach police officers set up to patrol. The pair drove the police department’s souped-up four-wheeler back and forth to secure the perimeter, but they couldn’t be in two places at once. At one point, a group of college-aged kids crossed the fencing on the south. Pyrotechnician Reggie May, who has also been working the Rehoboth Beach fireworks for 15 years, quickly chased the kids back. Reggie’s wife Dottie is also a pyrotechnician for Zambelli’s.
Ferguson turned and yelled to the police, but the north perimeter was too far away and they didn’t hear.
The Mays are one of two married couples on the crew. Liz and Kevin Toney are the other. They were setting up one of the displays and doing it as safely as possible, which in this case means installing the wires before dropping the individual firework down a tube.
“We just don’t like having our faces over the fireworks,” said Kevin, who then drilled a hole in one of the tubes so he could feed the wiring through. “This is what I’m talking about. Just in case we’ve got to do something.”
Not everyone on the team was doing it this way.
“It’s just personal preference,” said Liz.
I spoke with the crew of pyrotechnicians for about 15 minutes before heading back to the masses on the Boardwalk.
A few hours later, a little after 9:15 p.m., I ran into Dottie waiting in line at the port-a-potties closest to the launching area. I guess we both had the same idea – bathroom break before the fun begins. She was about to set off 1,000 fireworks, then clean up the beach afterward. I was about to photograph those fireworks, then walk as fast as I can back to my car to get ahead of the exiting traffic.
Being so close to showtime – around 9:30 – I asked her if they were ready to go. I guess I was expecting her to say, “Yes. I’ve got just enough time to relax for a bit,” or something like that. Instead, she said they weren’t quite done yet and it was going to be right down to the wire to make it. One of the crew members had to leave early to go work on another show, she said, with a shake of the head and a smile. Two port-a-potty doors opened simultaneously and that was the end of the conversation.
In the end, I don’t know what time the fireworks went off. If it wasn’t 9:30, it was close enough that it fell under the definition of “around 9:30.” The crowd was excited and distracted, none the wiser, as I made my way back to the car.
Joke of the Week:
This week’s joke is from Jim, who guaranteed it would bring groans. It’s Jim’s fault if it doesn’t. As always, send jokes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Do you know why, when those flocks of Canada geese fly overhead, one side of the V is longer than the other?
A: More geese.