Saturday, July 6, 2013
The fireworks display put on by the Hood River Lions Club every Independence Day is always a much-anticipated capstone to the Fourth’s festivities.
Though it usually lasts anywhere from 25-28 minutes, the annual sound and light show is always over too soon, with enthralled audiences oohing and aahhing and after the grand finale, cheering for more.
The rockets’ red glare may be fleeting, but the planning period required to put on a successful show is anything but.
Paul Zastrow, a member of the Eyeopeners Lions Club of Hood River, is just one of the dozen or so people involved in putting on the annual display at The Spit — an event he said the Lions have been in charge of for more than 30 years.
A licensed pyrotechnician, Zastrow has been helping with the show for 15 years and as the purchaser of the fireworks for the Lions, his job starts long before the Fourth of July.
“I start getting the order and all that stuff in the first of January,” he said.
The fireworks are bought from Western Display Fireworks in Canby, who also provide the service of organizing the display’s program, which lays out which size shells will go off when and in what number. The program has some input from the Lions though.
“We give them a little guidance,” Zastrow explained. “We don’t want all six-inch shells because we blow through them too quickly.”
The diameter of the shell directly coincides with how high in the sky the blast will occur. With every inch increase in the shell’s size, the ordinance travels another 100 feet in the air. The six-inch shells are the most expensive and the entire display runs about $15,000 and is funded primarily by donations from the community.
“Which is equivalent to if you had people other than volunteers doing it, it’d be about $50,000,” Zastrow noted.
All total, Zastrow estimated about 1,000 volunteer hours are spent on planning, setting up, executing, and cleaning up after the fireworks show. Under the watchful eye of Russ Paddock, chief pyrotechnician, volunteers started setting up at 1 p.m. the day before the show, carefully arranging the racks of tubes used to hold and angle the shells, which were aimed to the north and slightly to the east due to prevailing winds.
Fuses from the rockets were then wired to a panel of switches, which were in turn wired to a master panel of 400 switches, 375 of which were flipped in order to light the fireworks for Thursday’s show.
With each switch that’s flipped, a firework is sent into the air, with each color having meaning as well. Red is produced by iron or strontium, green indicates the presence of chromium, and white means the explosive was packed with titanium, which provides the biggest boom and is, of course, Zastrow’s favorite.
“If you hear something that goes boom big, that’s a titanium salute,” he said.