Macy’s fireworks by the numbers: The tricks and stats behind the nation’s largest 4th of July show

Posted On Thu, June 27, 2019 By

Posted On Thu, June 27, 2019 By In City Living, Events, Features, holidays

Image via Flickr cc

America’s largest 4th of July fireworks show is getting ready to light up the New York sky; Macy’s 43rd annual Fourth of July live fireworks extravaganza happens next Thursday evening, and plans are being hatched to snag a spot at one of the city’s better viewing locations (or in front of a bigger screen; the show is being broadcast live from the Brooklyn Bridge) to watch the amazing choreography of pyrotechnics that will sail skyward from four barges stationed on the East River near Pier 17 at South Street Seaport and from the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge will be a special focal point this year; expect dazzlingly intricate effects firing from more than a dozen points along the iconic NYC landmark throughout the 25-minute display, which will begin at around 9:20 P.M. The numbers behind the show are exactly as impressive as you’d expect.

4th of july, fireworks, macy's 4th of july fireworks, brooklyn bridge, holidaysThe Macy’s fireworks show from the Brooklyn Bridge in 2014. Image: Shinya Suzuki via Flickr

4th of july, fireworks, macy's 4th of july fireworks, brooklyn bridge, holidaysSpectators watching the Macy’s show on the Brooklyn Bridge in 2014. Image: Shinya Suzuki via Flickr

The numbers

This year you’ll be able to watch a 1600-foot-long waterfall of fireworks burst from the span between the large towers of the Brooklyn Bridge. And that’s just one of 70,000 pyrotechnic effects that will be launching from the bridge and four barges along the East River. 5 new additions include Wolf Whistle, Little Snakes, Hidden Happy Faces, Revolving Dragons and Multicolor Meteor Mines.

It takes 12 days of work to organize seven containers, six trucks and seven forklifts to load and ignite this year’s Macy’s Fireworks show.

macys, 4th of july, 4th of july, fireworks, holidays, maps
Image courtesy of michael ostendorp via flickr

60 expert pyrotechnicians will be on hand to make sure the show goes off without incident.

More than 3,000 different shells get fired off each minute (75,000 shells in total) during the 25 minute show. 50 miles of cabling and 1,600 lines of computer-programmed cues are required to get ready for this synchronized launch.


Macy’s 4th of July posters from, l-r, 1958, 1977 and 1991. Image courtesy of Macy’s.

More fun facts

The first big Macy’s fireworks show happened in 1958 on July 1, held to commemorate the store’s 100th anniversary.  The first July 4th fireworks show happened in 1976, the year Macy’s partnered with the Walt Disney Company to celebrate the nation’s Bicentennial. The event became an annual tradition.

The soundtrack comes first: Planning the fireworks show begins with the musical score. The music is the first thing to happen, with the soundtrack being nailed down as early as January. After the soundtrack is recorded, the pyrotechnics are choreographed to follow the music’s crests and valleys.

Gary Souza, Macy's Fireworks, 4th of July fireworks, Pyro SpectacularsGary Souza of Pyro Spectaculars; Image courtesy of Gary Souza.

A winning team

Previously, 6sqft interviewed Gary Souza, a fireworks designer for Pyro Spectaculars, the firm responsible for creating and overseeing the big show. Souza is part of a multigenerational family business begun by Manuel de Sousa after he immigrated from Portugal to the San Francisco area in the early 1900s. The company now spans five generations and is responsible for providing fireworks for some of the biggest names in the sports and entertainment industries, including the Winter and Summer Olympics, Super Bowls, Disney, and at concerts for icons such as the Rolling Stones. A 35-year history of collaboration with Macy’s has helped the company to develop technology that allows for safer, more elaborate firework creations to come to life.

 

Says Souza, “The overall picture of what we do, what we create in the sky, has grown tremendously over the last 20 or so years. Our team searches around the world to purchase fireworks that are new, exciting and different. There might be up to nine different countries represented. There are unique features that come from each country and we try to represent those in our display. To do this job well, you need to almost have a video gallery in your mind because it’s not just color or noise, it’s also duration, depth, layering, and pace.”

Susan Tercero, executive producer of Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks, said in a press release. “We are excited to once again work with our partners in the City of New York to make the iconic Brooklyn Bridge the star of our show. With a barrage of stunning shells and effects launching from its grand span and towers, along with tens of thousands more effects coloring the night from barges on the lower East River, this year’s display promises to be a spectacle to remember.”


Image via Wikimedia Commons

Patriotic spending

The numbers are pretty big on the spectator side of the fence, too. According to Moneyish, Americans spend $1 billion on alcohol alone on July 4th.

In 2017 the average American spent over $300 celebrating the nation’s birthday. Those expenses include travel, booze, food, clothing–and fireworks.

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