Up with a bang | VailDaily.com

Up with a bang

Kit Coffield
Amanda Swanson

Every year, as the temperature begins to rise, so does our anticipation for Fourth of July celebrations. This is the pinnacle of summer and here, like most cities and towns in America, we celebrate with firework shows.

For most people, firework shows are a lot of pretty lights, ooohs and aaahs – but there is a lot of work that goes into each show.

Here in the valley we have some of the world’s finest working behind the scenes to make our shows among the best in the Rockies.

“Gary Camino, our choreographer, is one of the best, he has worked the Macy’s parade and the Atlanta Olympics as well as many more,” says hometown fireworks guru Jim Funk. Camino and Funk work together with the towns of Avon, Minturn, and Vail to make sure each show is awe inspiring – and safe.

The Town of Avon, in particular, has developed a reputation for putting on one of the biggest fireworks shows in the region. Around 10,000 shells are launched in Avon each July 3, and the festivities usually attract around 10,000 – 15,000 people to Nottingham Lake.

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Funk has been organizing shows in the valley since the early ’70s, and has been in charge of the Avon show since its inception 19 years ago.

When Funk first began putting on firework shows, fireman and local volunteers would light each fuse individually. In Avon, however, the entire show is now controlled by computer. A professional fireworks company uploads the name of the firework, its size, delay time, and when it will open in the air. The computer then coordinates this information with the music program. When the show is set to begin, the pyrotechnician simply starts the program and watches to make sure nothing goes wrong.

Of all the many shells which will be ignited July 3, Funk has developed a few favorites: “I like the more traditional shells, the chrysanthemums, the Saturns, and the rings,” he said.

He is also fond of the newer multi-shots that will fire over 200 fireworks at once.

The Avon show is also choreographed within a millisecond to music, which will be broadcast live on KZYR, 97.7, The Zephyr.

“We got together with the town of Avon and had to decide the flavor of the show,” said KZYR’s Tony Mauro. Like years past, Mauro promised good old rock ‘n’ roll and traditional patriotic songs, but this year KZYR will introduce movie soundtracks to the extravaganza.

While music is playing and fireworks are bursting, Funk and his team will be making sure things stay safe. There will be three centers for the ignition of the fireworks – all located towards the west side of Nottingham Lake near the dam.

“As there are many town homes, a school and many businesses (nearby), the shell diameters (of the fireworks) are limited due to risk of fire,” said Avon Fire Marshal Carol Molsen. “But Jim does a great job at being creative with the shows.”

Over the years, Molsen said, the fireworks team has become well-accustomed to the procedures involved.

“The shows are getting easier because we have done them for so many years,” she said. “They seem to work seamlessly.”

– The town of Vail also hosts an annual fireworks celebration July 4 at 9:45 p.m. The fireworks are ignited from the top of Golden Peak, and the best viewing is from Ford Park.

There will be a live symphony playing in accompaniment to the show, so Vail does not synchronize their show using a computer. Instead, you can find Funk behind the orchestra queuing the fireworks. Wildland crews of firefighters are sent to higher risk areas in brush units where they are able to stamp out any spot fires that may spring up, but recent rainfall has lowered the risk of fire this year.

– Minturn has a few plans of their own and will be kicking off the celebration at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 1. The fireworks will begin at 9:30 p.m. following the parade, and will be set off from just below Lionshead rock. Minturn will also have festivals and a parade with a “Minturn Rocks” theme preceding the fireworks. The parade will feature 20 to 25 floats highlighted by senior citizens wheeling themselves along in wheelchairs – then spontaneously getting up and doing a dance routine. Following the parade there will be a barbecue on Nelson street which will feature sunflower-seed-spitting and ice-cream-eating contests.

– Eagle is focusing their celebration around the fireworks this year. The show will take place at 9:30 p.m., July 4, at the Fairgrounds and will be organized by Brian Schofield, a member of Funk’s crew. Eagle has put all their extra funds into beefing up the show, which town officials said should increase the duration by about 10 minutes and ensure an awesome grand finale.

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