Out of the park! Flawless fireworks perfect ending to Fourth festivities
LAURIE KNOWLES CALLANAN Record Express Correspondent
, Staff Writer
You could feel the tension in Lititz Springs Park on the Fourth of July as the time for fireworks approached.
Most appropriately, the theme for this year’s celebration was baseball. And when the first few fireworks went into the air, there was a huge sigh of relief. Just as the fans were hoping and wishing and praying for, they hit one right out of the park, with home run after home run, bombs bursting in air and not one, but two showcase finales!
"It was awesome," said Bill Dussinger, co-chairman for the 196th annual celebration. "It was all we ever could have imagined, and then some."
Not only did the full half-hour fireworks show have a big blast of color and sparkle and bang near the beginning of the 10 p.m. show, but the real finale was even more spectacular. The music was spellbinding as the show shifted from rock ‘n roll to movie themes, patriotic songs to baseball.
The baseball theme was derived from the history behind the first baseball game played in Lititz Springs Park in 1863 during the Civil War. Because of the battle in Gettysburg at that time, the only celebration in Lititz was that baseball game, which was intended to offer a bit of cheer in the war-torn times.
During the 2013 fireworks, the classic "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" played, and somehow the fireworks managed to convey a baseball being hit out of the park and a player rounding the bases, all lit up in white, blue and red. That was followed by John Fogerty singing "Put me in, coach, I’m ready to play…" from "Centerfield."
And the fans were as thrilled as if they were watching Domonic Brown hit walk-offs for the Phillies.
"I think the most meaningful moment came when the Battle Hymn of the Republic played at the finale," said Dussinger. "It was very moving."
Indeed, as the strains of "Glory, glory, hallelujah" played over the park, most everyone was awestruck by the emotion and breathtaking beauty of the fireworks. Not only did the music highlight the sense of patriotism and pride, but the fireworks themselves were spectacular.
"This year they had two trucks full of fireworks. They wanted a really big show to make up for last year," said Dussinger.
After last year’s strikeout with fizzling fireworks that lacked punch, organizers were determined to make amends.
Celebration Fireworks, Inc. of Kutztown was back despite the disappointing 2012 show. They wanted to prove that in 2013, the Fourth of July fireworks would be the best Lititz ever had. And they did not disappoint.
The colors were amazing, creating all sorts of shapes and swirls. And they were loud. One woman in the park was trying to calm her panicked poodle, and could be heard saying, "I never should have brought you here. You’re a wreck."
A few children might have been a little scared by the sound and lights, but most seemed transfixed at the spectacle. Outside the Lititz Fire Hall, firefighters and their families cheered loudly with each boom and burst of color. The entire park gave what can best be described as a standing ovation as the finale produced a spellbinding cascade.
"My favorite part of the day was how the community whole-heartedly supported this year’s celebration," commented Cory Van Brookhoven, president of the Lititz Historical Foundation. "Our town is very resilient, and it once again demonstrated this by showing great support of the Independence Day celebration."
Janice Miller was at the park with her three young children, who oohed and aahed at every burst in the sky above.
"This is incredible, we almost didn’t come after last year," she said. "I am so glad we did."
Mike Adams was leaving the park with friends when he was asked what he thought of the fireworks. He had only one word to say.
Facebook was flooded with comments.
"For anyone who missed the fireworks in Lititz, here’s some video to show you what you missed. It was fantastic," wrote one man, while another woman commented that, "This was far and above the best fireworks we have ever had in Lititz."
Ron Reedy, chairman of the Lititz Springs Park Board, was pleased and relieved by the successful display. Last year, he was compelled to write an open apology on the Lititz Springs Park website, noting that the problems were due to controller issues that caused the fireworks to not ignite properly.
Reedy faced a lot of backlash, along with demands to not use Celebration Fireworks again. At times, the complaints got "nasty," he noted. He ended up issuing a press release right after the 2012 show that said:
"The Lititz Springs Park Board and Clair Global met with John Kemps, president of Celebration Fireworks, along with members of his staff, regarding the pyromusical fireworks show held during the Fourth of July celebration in Lititz Springs Park. While many who attended the event were disappointed with the display, the park board members were searching for answers as to just what happened and why the show was not fully ignited."
Reedy went on to note that Kemps and staff found that the problem related to the fire controller known as FireOne, which is the same controller device used for the fireworks at Disney World. Following consultation with the FireOne manufacturer and Disney, they determined that the problem was caused by noise on the control line to the firing modules. Celebration assured the park board that corrective steps would be taken by using two fire controllers and a special cue system.
Celebration also discounted the cost of last year’s fireworks, and provided extra fireworks and additional features for this year at the usual cost.
Last year, Reedy explained that the park board and Clair Global have had a good working relationship with Celebration, and were satisfied that corrective steps would be be taken for the 2013 show. And Celebration delivered.
"We worked closely with Lititz Springs Park and Clair Global to make sure this show would be a success," said Kemps.
After the problems last year, Celebration was able to procure new equipment that had not been available then. They even set up a mini-display of fireworks to use as a test to make sure all the signals and timing devices were working properly.
The fireworks display was designed and choreographed by Chris Hopkins of Celebration, and he spent many hours working with Matt Clair of Clair Global in Lititz to select the music and choreograph the show.
"I have been doing the fireworks in Lititz for five years, so Lititz is kind of my adopted hometown," said Hopkins. "Last year was devastating for me."
Hopkins said that he took the failure of last year’s show personally, and was intent on making sure that never happened again. Before the fireworks started, he was feeling the pressure. Around 8 p.m., they did some tests of equipment and everything was working. Then it was time for the big show.
They opened with "Supremacy" and "Unstoppable" in the early part of the fireworks, evoking drama and emotion. As Hopkins explained, the music is movie music that is often used as finale music in fireworks shows. That was the reason that many people felt that there were two or even three finales.
"We used as much gold as we could to create that shimmering golden effect," said Hopkins.
When it was all done, and Hopkins heard the applause and saw the enthusiasm from the crowd, he was quite simply, "Ecstatic."
"The show was spectacular this year, and all the elements came together as planned," commented Clair, who chairs the bandshell and fireworks portion of the Fourth of July celebration.
Clair began working on the show with Hopkins in January, and the two basically threw ideas back and forth on how they could "push the envelope for the year’s celebration." It wasn’t an easy process to finalize the soundtrack, but Hopkins had a vision on how the overall visual production should be once the baseball theme was determined.
"It was full speed ahead from that point, until around 10:30 p.m. when the show concludes on the Fourth," said Clair. "All the stress and hard work pays off when the pyrotechnics and audio are in perfect sync and we put on a powerful show for all the generous attendees who come enjoy the day and give back to our local park."
Dussinger, like everyone on the park board and Fourth of July committee, was thrilled with the resounding success of 2013.
"They checked, double-checked and triple-checked before the show," he said. "And I have heard nothing but praise for the fireworks. Everyone was happy."
Except maybe that shell-shocked poodle, who didn’t fully appreciate the rockets’ red glare and the bombs bursting in air.
More FIREWORKS, page A16