Macy’s fireworks by the numbers: The tricks and stats behind the nation’s largest 4th of July show
Image via Flickr cc
America’s largest 4th of July fireworks show is getting ready to light up the New York sky; Macy’s 46th annual Fourth of July live fireworks extravaganza happens Monday, July 4th at 8 P.M., 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) to watch the amazing choreography of pyrotechnics throughout the two-hour display. The fireworks are set to sail skyward from five barges stationed on the East River centered around Midtown Manhattan starting at about 9:25 P.M.–and the numbers behind the show are even more impressive this year.
The Macy’s fireworks show from the Brooklyn Bridge in 2014. Image: Shinya Suzuki via Flickr
Spectators watching the Macy’s show on the Brooklyn Bridge in 2014. Image: Shinya Suzuki via Flickr
This year, you’ll see 17 different patterns, including sparkling arrangements like Splitting Comets, Scattering Stars and Rising Comets exploding overhead, just some of the 1,920 shells and effects that will be launching each minute. 14 special effect highlights will include Whistling Jellyfish, Little Snakes, Blinking Smiling Face, Swimming Chrysanthemums and more.
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.
Image courtesy of michael ostendorp via flickr
50 expert pyrotechnicians will be on hand to make sure the show goes off without incident.
More than 1,920 different shells will be fired off each minute. 96,000 pounds of steel mortars are required to get the synchronized launch into the sky.
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 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
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.