Volunteers make adjustments to the tower portion of the "ground show" during the 2008 4thFest fireworks display near Beaver Stadium and Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. This structure holds smaller pyrotechnics that light up in shapes, letters and words in coordination with the music choreography. The location is referred to as "the fronts."
Matthew Lindenberg, a Penn State computer systems analyst in the College of Engineering, volunteers his time to help set up the computerized timing and choreography of the pyrotechnic display. Here he displays some of the FireOne control hardware to be used. These components are made by State College manufacturer Pyrotechnics Management Inc.
A few of the 80+ volunteers worked to "drop shells" on Tuesday, July 1, in preparation for the pyrotechnics display to take place at 9:15 p.m. on July 4 on Penn State's University Park campus.
Bryce Boyer, a local volunteer, prepares the fuses -- dubbed "electronic matches" by veteran volunteers -- that connect shells to a rail. This system allows the computer control program to set off each piece at the planned, precise moment to match the music. Musical choreography takes place between Labor Day and the winter holidays of the preceding year.
"Live" shells await launch on their rails. Senior volunteer Bob Williams said that more than 10 thousand such shells would be launched for the July 4 festivities. During the show, more than four shells per second will be launched, with a staggering 40+ shells going up during the finale.
Volunteers handling shells must be over the age of 18, and while on site are visible by their bright red shirts. The shells visible here already have been prepared, and are considered "live" -- that is, able to fire when connected to the system on Friday -- although some planned testing takes place during the days preceding the Fourth of July.
Since their arrival by boat from China, the shells were prepared in a secure location before being transported to the launch tubes: here, shells sit on their tubes prior to packaging and connecting by volunteers. The arrival of many such pyrotechnics was delayed before leaving China, but arrival early this week did not greatly set back the preparations according to Bernie Keisling, executive director of the Central PA 4thFest.
Mark, a local volunteer, places a shell in a watertight bag before loading it into its tube. Every shell was packaged in such a manner, to prevent moisture damage. The ends of each tube were capped by plastic pipe caps.
Shown here, each shell and tube has been labeled to coordinate to the timing, location, placement and sequence of ignition. Senior volunteer Bob Williams, a Penn State alumnus, returns from his home in Florida every year for five weeks to help with the show. In this case, he holds a shell while checking labels.
Gwen Dreibelbis, a local volunteer, has been "dropping shells," as shown here, since she turned 18. Now a student at Delaware University, she first got involved with her family in her youth, and has been helping out with 4thFest for eight-plus years.
Volunteers still are needed, even though the 4thFest begins in just a few days. Anyone interested can visit www.4thfest.org for more information, or call (814) 404-8777 for more information. According to Bernie Keisling, executive director of PA 4thFest, the best place to view is in the VIP area located within the box suites of Beaver Stadium, just up the hill from the fronts.
Shells range in size from three to 12 inches, and are made to reach heights of around 900 feet. Seen here, the "right mains" bank of shells sits, already wired and ready for Friday's display.