Since ancient times in China, fireworks have dazzled and entertained adults and children around the globe, from Italy's loud noise makers to the brilliant pulsating colors from Japan.
But before the loud noise fills an arena and the pulsating colors light up the night sky, a lot of hard work and preparation goes into a fireworks display. No more is this evident then with the popular "Stadium of Fire," produced by Alan Osmond Productions in conjunction with America's Freedom Festival at Provo.When producer Alan Osmond goes to a football game at Brigham Young University's Cougar Stadium, he often isn't thinking about football. He's imagining his next fireworks show.
"I take great pains to make sure that I play a show that works well in the round so that I'm not favoring any one side," he said. His preparation for the "Stadium of Fire" continues year round, with help from Paul Austin Fireworks of Kansas.
Austin's company is the reigning Golden Jupiter winner in the Montreal-based International Fireworks Competition and has been involved with several well-known fireworks displays from coast to coast.
According to Brad Bone, program director for Paul Austin Fireworks, safety is the top concern when planning any fireworks display.
"Safety is our primary concern. We have a safety officer whose only job is to walk around and look for potential problems. He does nothing except inspect everything we do. He's with us in Cougar Stadium, and he accompanies us across the street (o the baseball fields) for the aerial displays," Bone said.
Their concern is not only for human safety, but also for preserving the facilities where the displays will take place.
The south end of the stadium that houses the set pieces is lined with foil to catch debris that falls from the fireworks. On particularly hot pieces, plywood is placed around the seats and covered in foil as an additional precaution.
Some shells are double sandbagged to ensure that no problems occur in case of misfire.
"Occasionally we'll have to replace a piece of turf, but generally the grass is in excellent condition within a week of the show. We don't dig holes, and when we need to set heavy pieces on the ground, we first water the lawn and place foam blankets under the pieces. This keeps the turf damp and keeps the grass alive."
The ground isn't the only thing that needs water, according to Randy Johnson of the Laser FX company, who will be helping with the display. Thousands of gallons of water are used to cool the equipment used in the laser show.
"The lasers use as much power as a small community," Johnson said. "It takes 60,000 watts of energy to produce 60 watts of laser light. That's powerful."
The lasers that will be used during the pyrotechnic part of the panorama are new in design and will produce animated projections on the clouds of smoke from exploded fireworks and on other surfaces.
"The beams are projected from a specially developed system under computer control," Johnson said. "The lasers we use are scientific lasers, argon gas lasers.
"Effects produced by the lasers will include a flying eagle and other animations, sponsor's logos and beams that produce geometric shapes."
This year's "Stadium of Fire" will be extra special, Osmond said. Fireworks companies from China, Italy, Japan and France will compete in a pyrotechnic competition.
According to Osmond, each of these countries specializes in some aspect of pyrotechnics. From China, recognized as the birthplace of fireworks, will come an ornate dragon that breathes fire. The Panzera Co., known for inventing Roman Candles, will represent Italy.
"These candles are unique," Bone said. "The Panzeras have spent a lifetime developing them, and they are glorious. It's possible to produce very large and colorful patterns, and, as you will hear, Italy has a preference for noise-making celebration fireworks."
Among France's specialties will be a segment call the "Moulin Rouge" with fountains that rain with fireworks, while the Japanese will recreate a cherry blossom scene from the base of Mount Fuji.
This year there will even be a firework named exclusively for Osmond, known as "Alans."
"I guess thy have run out of names for fireworks," Osmond said. "When we are preparing the show I go through lists of fireworks and ask what are these called. I suppose the manufacturers saw my interest."
The "Alans" were used once, four years ago. They are quite expensive, and the company that first produced them has stopped making them. Osmond went to a new manufacturer and for the second time ever, the "Alans" will be a part of the "Stadium of Fire."
"People will see them fire from the top corners of the south end zones," said Bone. "As these shells leave the stadium they spray brilliant gold tails that peak at about a thousand feet."
They cover the sky with a golden arch, but because they are expensive and time-consuming to make, the Austin Co. has contracted with the manufacturer to make them only for the Provo show.
As is characteristic of an Austin show, the fireworks are synchronized carefully with music on a computer to match mood and rhythm. Bone first accounts for every second of the music and enters that information into a computer program developed to read the timing by tenths of seconds.
If the music has the clash of cymbals, he can use a Golden Kamuro, a Japanese product that provides a huge golden burst in the sky to represent cymbals. Via computer he then determines and charts the lift time or, in other words, how much time is necessary to get the special effect into the air.
"The horizons are limitless," Bone said. "The Osmond show is one of our largest and is unusual because it blends live performers with fireworks for a collage of entertainment. I give you my word, you'll definitely get more than your money's worth this year. It really is a stadium of fire."
Tickets for the July 2, 8:30 p.m. show are available through the Marriott Center, 378-5666 (78-BYU1) and at Smith'sTix outlets.