Why We Do Fireworks…

Why We Do Fireworks…

Written by Harry Gilliam

Topics: Uncategorized

“I often use the word “joy” when describing fireworks.

It is a considered word, deliberate in choice. Not just amusement, entertainment, or astonishment, but joy.

Our art makes us all into children again for awhile. We become one in our experience for the moment, lost in the sound and color and light.

We see large forces, stronger than we could ever be, yet beautiful in their effects. Sometimes violent, sometimes restrained. Delicate beyond imagination at times, coarse and rude at others.

Deadly force, dangerous, dirty stuff. Crafted with sweat. Controlled by the artist. Bringing joy to many. Bringing joy.

To me the art encompasses all of life. Pain and work, plan and mistake, joy and tragedy.

For all the pain, injury and failure we suffer, our efforts bring the joy – the magic – to thousands.

Not a bad return.

Though very few ever recognize the effort, nearly all remember the result, and all have, for a few moments, the Joy.

The world is better for an instant. What more could one want?”

–Reflections by Bill Withrow 9/15/92 11:47 PM

Bill Withrow was a member of the Pyrotechnics Guild International. When he died, his widow asked one of his pyro pals to come over and go through his effects. This note was among them.

Back in the stone age, when Skylighter had a printed catalog, we printed Bill’s note on the back cover.

I think it speaks eloquently for itself, for me, and many of us.

–Harry Gilliam

12 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Dan E says:

    Harry, ever since the days of Ed Vazanack, Bob Cardwell, and of course your predicessor Dr. Ken Kosanke- we have needed a legitimizing forum and I think you are on to something here. But I would suggest going one step farther and pushing to get your own DYI Network television show … the first of its kind on pyro. You can show the art/sport as ligitmate as apple pie pairing together grilling dishes with fountains, perhaps rockets with a good steak, and not the least deserts with whistling go-getters!

  2. Hi….Bill
    I never describe about the fireworks because the pyro effects of it`s close my mouth and i just says wow……owe sham…..wonderful…. amazing….But the professional firers makes this one step ahead of our thoughts and i also know some online fireworks shop who can generate this you can call them at 0800 612 9371

  3. I like it, Harry. Thanks for reminding us of it again. I still have a copy of the old, paper, red, Skylighter catalogue with that quote on the back of it. It says a lot. There must be some good reason we work so hard on pyro…sweat,,bleed,,cramp-up.. and in the end it is that Joy that we feel, and that we know the crowd feels when their cheers go up after the finale, that makes it all worthwhile. ned

  4. John, says:

    Okay…since the general mood of information is that we have constitutional rights to pursue the hobby/business of black powder and fireworks, I just need some clarification…

    Black Powder burns by a process known as deflagration, which is more of a rapid burning and expansion of hot gasses than a detonation. Deflagration differs from detonation in that Black Powder produces subsonic shock waves, as opposed to the supersonic shock waves produced by explosives such as Dynamite, C-4 or TNT. This makes Black Powder better suited as propellant (such as in fireworks, bullets and Cannons) than explosives used for construction or demolition,
    Black Powder is considered low order explosive, where TNT, Dynamite and C-4 are considered high order explosives. This seems fairly clear for the materials involved.

    The quality of black powder is defined by its burn rate, usually expressed in cm3/s, which means how many cubic centimeters per second it expands. A burn rate of about 14 cm3ls or higher is needed for black powder to be used as a propellant. It should be noted that unless you have an ATF license, possession and/or manufacture of powder with a burn rate of 14 cm3/s or higher constitutes a weapons violation under US law.
    Clarification needed: So hobbyists have nothing to worry about as far as the ATF? Maybe, one’s biggest concern is proper storage and who enforces weapons violations?

  5. Thomas says:

    Agreed! Joy yes. Adrenaline rush for me yes! Enjoyment of watching folks in awe of my show… yes, yes, and yes. er, um…Priceless.

  6. Dean says:

    Thanks Harry, Bill did a good job of making such a small word mean so much. Joy oh joy
    Dean from the UK

  7. Paul says:

    Thank you . All I can say is a BIG AMEN

  8. David says:

    Hello Harry,

    Thanks so much for sharing Bill’s thoughts and insight into the craft. What a fantastic,singular word to describe the delight of a colorful explosive end of ones efforts in building fireworks. JOY!

  9. Scott Marshall says:

    I think Bill expressed in his comments what many of us feel. The technology is an art, and all those who appreciate that can see the wisdom in his words. Sad to see him leave. I hope he’s somewhere watching the flashes and smelling the sulfur.

  10. Ken Ketterman says:

    Well said Harry, I always get excited a day or two before a show and after I’m so pumped up I can’t sleep.

  11. ned says:

    I like it, Harry.
    Thanks for reminding us of it again.
    I still have a copy of the old, paper, red, Skylighter catalogue with that quote on the back of it.
    It says a lot.
    There must be some good reason we work so hard on pyro…sweat,,bleed,,cramp-up..
    and in the end it is that Joy that we feel, and that we know the crowd feels when their cheers go up after the finale, that makes it all worthwhile.
    ned

    • Robert Friedman says:

      Good stuff. The facination with pyro has always been paramount with all Americans. Why else does a fireworks display always attract such large crowds?

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