Archive for Thursday, June 2, 2005

Volunteer has blast with fireworks show

June 2, 2005

To qualify as a pyromaniac it takes only an irresistible urge to start fires.

It takes a lot more to be certified as a licensed pyrotechnician; namely, the completion of a course and passing an exam administered by the Kansas State Fire Marshal's office.

Jamie Miller is a licensed pyrotechnician and has been in charge of fireworks shows for the city of Lansing the past two years. Miller's day job is assistant director of Leavenworth County Emergency Medical Services, and he also volunteers as fireman at Fire District No. 1 fire station.

The fireworks show at this year's Lansing DAZE festival and the city's Fourth of July celebration will be the result of several hours of planning, construction and computer programming.

Spectators may not appreciate just how much preparation is required to put on a fireworks show. Just like any other kind of show, fireworks shows must be scripted, and Miller writes a detailed script matching fireworks to music for each show.

"For each minute of the shows, I spend an hour preparing the script," Miller said.

That comes to 11 hours for the DAZE show and 22 for the Fourth of July.

Music for the Lansing DAZE festival will be 1970s, '80s and '90s pop, while the Fourth of July celebration will be set to classic Disney movie songs for the theme "Fantasy in the Sky."

Besides the planning required to write the script, the June and July shows will require Miller and about 10 volunteers to construct sandboxes from which the fireworks will be launched. Lumber for the sandboxes was donated by Lansing Lumber, 211 N. Main St.

Pat Peterson, co-owner of Lansing Lumber, said, "We like to help out anything in Lansing. There aren't a lot businesses here so we try to do what we can."

This year's show was also sponsored in part by a donation of $4,000 from Kessinger/Hunter & Co., a Kansas City, Mo., real estate development firm working with Lansing City Hall to oversee the development of the 32-acre Towne Center that is planned to be Lansing's new downtown.

Jeff Dozier, vice president of retail development for Kessinger/Hunter, said he and his partners decided to sponsor the show because "We wanted to get involved in Lansing and involved in the community."

To launch the fireworks, Miller will use a digital firing system, which consists of a computer interface module connected to a laptop PC and a series of cues, which are boxes with 24 electronic igniters each wired to one or two fireworks. The cues are daisy-chained with electrical wire, and can be arranged as far as a mile apart. For the DAZE festival, the fireworks will be fired from Center Drive in Lansing Towne Center.

The fireworks will be launched from mortars, tubes made of high-density polyethylene. The mortars are set up in sandboxes, which provide traction and absorb the fireworks' blasts.

Shanae Randolph, director of economic development and the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, "Jamie does a tremendous job on the City's fireworks displays. He volunteers his time and talent to put on a great show for Lansing."

With any luck, the weather this year will be more suitable for fireworks than it was last year. Miller said that just two or three minutes into last year's Lansing DAZE fireworks show, tornadic thunderstorms forced him to stop the show. Miller said he usually does not conduct a show if winds of 20 mph and above are present.

The Lansing DAZE fireworks display will begin about 9:30 p.m., Saturday, June 11, and will be viewable from the festival grounds.

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