Tonawanda News — Preparations began Tuesday for tonight’s fireworks display that will be viewed by tens of thousands in the Twin Cities.
On Tuesday, Joe Schmidt, a supervisor with Pyrotecnico and a North Tonawanda resident, and his crew, were setting up a series of tubes on Tonawanda Island, and hooking them up to a set of electronics that will cue the launching of tonight’s roughly 20-minute bombastic foray of crackling color and light.
Schmidt has been involved with pyrotechnic performances for 22 years, and has conducted the same routine in the area for most of the last decade, dating back to a time when his wares were shot from a barge in the Niagara River.
Those days are gone now because of safety issues, but he said the excitement he has for his work has not waned with time, with new product lines to test and various methods used to create a range of scenarios each year.
“The stuff comes in and it’s like Christmas,” Schmidt said.
And the reaction from the throngs of people descending upon the shores of the river and Erie Canal does not go unnoticed, either.
“You hear the screams from the crowd and you hear the boaters honking their horns from the water, it’s great,” he said. “With new paraphernalia there’s new effects.”
Several long metal structures were placed in a privately owned open field on the island, as fire officials from both cities inspected the scene. Schmidt said he and four crew members will stand about 75 feet away from the launching area, while fire crews will douse the several grassy acres around it prior the the show.
North Tonawanda Assistant Fire Chief Tom Croop said 2012 will be a particularly dangerous year due to extremely dry weather, despite the first real rain to soak the region coming Tuesday.
He also noted that despite the commonality of residents using illegal fireworks throughout the Tonawandas and across the state, officials this year will be cracking down, with many firefighters and other emergency agencies working exceedingly long hours to ensure a smooth and safe holiday.
“There could be a catastrophe with this dry weather,” added Capt. Pat McNulty, a City of Tonawanda fire prevention officer, who is working closely with North Tonawanda’s rescue teams. “We’re really worried about that. Even a kid with a sparkler can be dangerous. You have to be safe and use common sense.”
Schmidt said that the federal bureau of Alchohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has restricted the size of pyrotechnics that can be used in this modern era, but nonetheless he’s still able to put together a visually appealing show that’s based off of experience, time and a touch of creativity, with each item being rocketed off every three second until the always anticipated grand finale.
“It’s a rush, it gets your adrenaline going,” he said. “There really is an art to this and it’s a blast creating different effects.”Contract Reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext 4115.