The video above shows why my favorite fireworks club in the US is the Florida Pyrotechnic Arts Guild–a small, invitation-only club, that doesn’t even have a website (and does not want one).
The reason is simply that it is the most entertaining fireworks club in the US. When you throw in the fact that it is in the South–the land of BBQ and honey–that events there are often as much about eating well as enjoying fireworks, and that the members are some of most fun people I know, you can get why I am willing to drive 1200 – 1400 miles every time I go to an event down there.
Oh, and did I mention that this is probably the largest group of highly accomplished amateur fireworks makers in the US–if not the world?
And that always guarantees I am going to see fireworks the likes of which I rarely get to see anywhere else.
Last month was no exception. Lemme show you what I mean.
So, last month, here I am at the FPAG spring shoot. Mitch Piatt comes up and asks me if I will light one of his shells for him so he can stand back and videotape it. I accept without even asking him what he is going to try and kill me with.
He reaches into his truck and pulls out a 6-inch diameter, 40-inch long salami, and says “Here ya go. Use the mortar on the far left.”
I still have not asked him anything about the shell.
It had been raining and the row of buried mortars had been covered with plastic to keep them dry. I peel the plastic back, and then lower the shell into the steel gun, positioning the quickmatch so that it is sticking out over the lip of the mortar.
Now keep in mind it is afternoon, and still very light out.
I pop the trigger on the torch, light the short piece of Visco attached to the quickmatch, and walk back to the plywood barricade. Just as I turn, the shell fires and the first spectacular break goes off right above me–a beautiful spray of bright red stars surrounded by deep black smoke stars, the first ones I had ever seen this close up.
Very, very nice contrast between the bright red and the smoky black.
Then another red and black break, then a third, and I start looking for the big bottom shot I know is inevitable.
I see it tumbling down, headed straight for me!
Eeeeeyikes! Nowhere to hide!
KerBLAMMMM goes the bottom shot, about 40 feet over my head! A big salute and lampare fireball!
Damn! He didn’t TELL me THAT was what was gonna happen. Of course, as I said, I hadn’t asked either. Silly me.
Well, of course everything functioned perfectly. All exactly as Mitch had intended. He do know what he’s doing. Mitch has been building these Maltese-style cylinder shells for more than a decade, and goes to Malta just about every year to continue learning from the masters there.
As spectacular as the shell had been going off above my head, it looked even better on my friend Addi Somekh’s iPhone. And that night Addi uploaded it to YouTube for us all to enjoy.
Later, I wrote Mitch and got the details on the star compositions for you.
Do you have any questions about this shell? Just post them below and I’ll see if I can get Mitch to answer your questions for you.