There have been 55 editions of Detroit fireworks and this year’s 56th promises to go higher, have even better colors and, of course, be set masterfully to music. The home of Motown deserves nothing less, after all. But how does that happen? Who is the pyrotechnic maestro conducting the visual spectacle we’re going to see?
We had a chance to talk to Patrick Brault, the show’s choreographer, who explained the process to us on the shores of the Detroit River. He’s been working for the past couple of days with the world renowned, “First Family of Fireworks,” Zambelli, to make sure everything goes off as planned. The Zambelli crew has been working on this show since 1987, according to Don Morris of the Parade Company.
The music is going to center on the show’s theme, “Here Comes the Sun.” One hundred computers control the 8,000 pounds of fireworks, which is an engineering marvel in and of itself. Brault’s work started in earnest in February once the Parade Company sent the music.
From there, shells (that’s what the fireworks that actually go up into the air are referred to) are selected, colors are debated, and heights are decided. As Ford Motor Company is the key sponsor, expect to see blues and silvers this year, and Brault says, he hopes for a perfect oval.
Over the years, the color selection has become more developed. The purity of the ingredients has increased, making it easier to create certain colors, even as the substances themselves have become more controlled. Brault will include pastels and bold colors, as well as has another trick up his sleeve.“We’re going to make the show higher (in the sky) this year, so that even more people can see it,” said Brault.
Being that the show is on an international border, it’s only fitting that the fireworks in the show come from different countries. Although most of the ordinates are put together in Pennsylvania, you’ll see shells from Japan, Taiwan, Spain and other places.
There is a lot of flexibility in what style of firework can be used, according to Brault. The natural barrier of the Detroit River and the budget allows him to summon a variety of options to dazzle crowds. And for him to say that says something coming from a man with a long resume who has choreographed many fireworks shows, including the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“Scheduling is done to the pinpoint when it comes to launching, but when you have nine shells going up at the same time, there might be a little difference when they go off … and I can use whatever product, whereas on a standard show, many people just want the most shells, here we can have ones that take their time and really make a (visual) impact,” said Brault.
So take a look at this guide on where to go and where to park, sit back either on the banks of the river or in your couch at home at 10:06 p.m., and enjoy the show this team has put months into. This should be a real treat.
The Detroit Ford Fireworks will last 23 minutes. You can find it on television at WDIV-TV Channel 4 and on the radio on WJR-AM 760.
Photos by Nick Hagen. The post done in collaboration with Hell Yeah Detroit.