Wetumpka’s annual New Year’s Eve fireworks celebration went off without a hitch.
The well-known annual event featuring a flaming meteor and a show lasting up to 14 minutes is the handiwork of fireworks company Pyro Productions.
As a lead pyrotechnics technician, Joel Hart rigged and discussed plans for igniting Wetumpka’s meteor with city fire officials. During the afternoon of Dec. 31, Hart’s work was nowhere near complete.
Hart worked for several hours as day turned to night to rig the fireworks show.
The star of the show was securely stored in a trailer waiting to be set up on the other side of the Coosa River.
The show is created by a show designer with input from the client.
It is Hart’s responsibility to set up the order of the fireworks based on the show designer’s plan.
“The amount of fireworks for a show like this just depends on what a city asks for and what a show designer set up,” Hart said.
He said this particular show consisted of 21 cases of fireworks. Each case contained up to 100 individual fireworks called shells resting at the bottom of large plastic tubes.
“Most fireworks patterns are named after flowers,” Hart said. “Some are hearts and smiley face designs.
My favorite is a salute or a snowball. It’s a loud flash in the sky and a thunder. You can feel it in your chest. It sets car alarms off. Those are the noise-makers and it makes the crowd go wild.”
Hart said Wetumpka’s show is fairly unique with the incorporation of the meteor.
“As the meteor goes, we want sparks as it flies through the sky because this is the crater impact area,” Hart said. “You got the meteor ball flying through the sky and hitting earth. As it hits, we want a big explosion that throws up noise and color and strobes and different effects that make it like a meteor impacted the City of Wetumpka.”
He said these are not the type of fireworks sold to the public through retail outlets.
“You have to be licensed to shoot these,” he said. “This is considered Class B explosives through several different agencies like (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or ATF) and (Alabama Department of Transportation). To be able to possess, transport and use this product you have to be licensed through the ATF and certified through the state fire marshal’s office.”
Hart works 10 to 15 fireworks shows every year. He has shot Wetumpka’s New Year’s Eve show the past seven to eight years and has been in the business for 15 years.
He considers Christmas on the Coosa as his favorite show.
“It is one of the shows we shoot for Wetumpka,” he said. “I used to watch it when I was 6 and 7 years old. It was one of my favorite shows when I was a kid; it is one of my favorite shows now.”