4thFest organizers to test fireworks tonight

June 29, 2010

University Park, Pa. -- Organizers of the 4thFest Celebration on Penn State's University Park campus will be testing the fireworks at dusk this evening (June 29). The test firing will start around dusk, and should last about 15 minutes.

"Since this is a choreographed show, timing is very important. We need to determine times that it takes to launch shells and get them to their maximum altitude. We need to record the time it takes for the shell to break, put out its display whether it's a willow or a peony, and then the time to decay all the little sparklies from the sky," said Gary Mayhew, chair of the 4thFest pyrotechnics committee.

Mayhew explained that fireworks can have different timing from year to year, from lot to lot, or even from firework to firework, so they record the times and add them to their library of information from past years to get the most accurate timing possible. "The timing allows the computer to adjust the time at which it sends the signal to tell the electronic match to fire. We'll back those times off so that when the big bass note hits, that shell will open up on cue," he said.

The test-firing is a mini show by itself, and helps to build anticipation for the big show coming up. For information about this year's show, visit http://www.4thfest.org/ online, and check back to Penn State Live on Thursday for more preview information and photos.

  • After the test-firing of fireworks shells, show organizers tweak the timing of the shells' firing during the show, to precisely time them to the music.

    IMAGE: Annemarie Mountz
Last Updated November 18, 2010