RIO GRANDE — Rockets over Rio thrilled a crowd of thousands Saturday night after spending a day at the Bob Evans Farm Festival, watching the University of Rio Grande’s soccer games or stopping by for a free evening spectacle.
Legendary Entertainment’s Steve Kaiser captained the $8,000 firework display. Kaiser is a veteran pyrotechnician of 28 years. He retired as full-time firefighting lieutenant after 25 years. He was stationed in Ohio departments.
“Shell-wise, we’re sitting in the neighborhood of about 450 to 500 shells. Cake shots, we’re sitting in the neighborhood of about 1,400,” Kaiser said of the amount of fireworks shot during the event.
Shells are fireworks that are launched in a mortar-styled fashion, often by hand using road flares. Cake fireworks come in the form of a multiple-tubed device that fire rounds similar to small aerial shells connected by high-speed fuses. Cakes are usually fired electronically. Legendary Entertainment’s launch technicians often wear racing jumpsuits and motorcycle helmets to provide necessary protection against intense heat, ash and potential burns that can come from fireworks.
The largest shell fired at the evening’s show was 10 inches in diameter. Smaller hand-lit shells can be 2½ inches. The company will also uses gas-powered mortars for “flame effects.” Kaiser said it helps keep his shows “different” and he has used them in the past when working with NASCAR events.
Kaiser said his seven technicians started working at 10 a.m. and finished setup by 6 p.m. After launching a show, they completed with tear down around midnight. His youngest technician was 18 versus Kaiser’s 28 years of experience.
“No show is ever worth anybody getting hurt over,” Kaiser said. “That’s the first thing I teach in my (fire safety) classes. It doesn’t matter if it’s us or another company. It doesn’t matter if we’re shooting in this state or another state. Anything in this industry affects us all.”
According to Kaiser, every state has different fireworks laws. He said that some individuals he has heard speak say that Ohio is strict in its handling of firework matters. He also said he had been to other states that did not require licensing to shoot. Regardless of whether the state is strict in its laws, Kaiser said that individuals firing fireworks should respect professional standards and safety when handling explosive ordnance. Kaiser has helped teach fire marshals and firefighters alike in continuing education efforts.
“The product is hand-made,” Kaiser said. According to him, firework ordnance is wrapped in paper and cardboard and it can be hard to examine if a shell has been made correctly. Safety standards are of the utmost importance as it is not difficult to lose a hand or one’s life when launching. According to Kaiser, it’s worth spending extra money for a quality firework if it means a safer show for his crew and the audience.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.