Behind the scenes: Preperations for SkyShow 2016

- Every Fourth of July, thousands of fireworks burst into color, painting charlotte’s night skyline during the “SkyShow.”  For this year’s bright display, it takes perhaps an even brighter mind to design it.  Russ Ellis, Software Engineer for the company Pyro Show, has choreographed which shell, the part of the firework that you see launched high into the sky, goes off at which time to perfectly match the music.

“If it’s ‘Purple Rain’ we’ll have purple shells go up during that time, if it’s ‘Achy break heart,’ we’ll have heart-shaped shells.

Pyro Show, based in LaFollette, TN, creates more than 1,100 firework shows nationwide each year, with more than 400 of them being this weekend alone.  Here in Charlotte, Ellis and his team are working 60 hours in five days preparing 8,000 shells to be launched into the sky on Monday, all within a 22-minute show.  Rather than igniting each fuse by hand, Ellis tapes an electronic fuse to each firework, making it much safer.

"On the bottom of the shell there’s actually a lift charge that lifts the shell out of the tube and it starts a small timer fuse going to the center effect so when it reaches the very top, it then opens up and that’s what you see in the sky."

Starting with the push of a button, the fuses go off automatically in a sequence programmed to a computer.

“For this show, it took roughly 6 hours for us to lay out the show on a computer system before we ever left the facility,” said Ellis.  “It gives us more control.  If something were to happen, we could stop it in an instant.”

The firework display on the fourth of July will have some new effects Ellis is sure will wow those who’ll be watching.

“There will be some called Ghost Shells that will break in the sky and they’ll go from one side to the other, lighting up and then fading out.”

Ellis has been creating fire work displays for events around the country for twenty years.  And there’s one thing that keeps that spark going.

“It a lot of hard work to get it set up and then tearing it down but to heard the crowd, the hoots and hollering from the crowd that’s what really drives us to continue to do it.”

The Fourth of July fireworks kick off after the charlotte knights game ends.  The best places to watch:  BB&T Ball Park or Romare Bearden Park.

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