Northwest NEWS

June 4, 2001

Front Page


Get ready for a sky full of light

by Jeanette Knutson
   Staff Writer
   Mount Rainier will loom on the southern horizon. Dark evergreen-covered hillsides that flank the Sammamish River Valley will be the close-in backdrop.
   The expansive carpet of lawn at JB Instant Lawn will be dotted with deck chairs and colorful blankets holding community members young and old. Children will squeal with delight as they bounce on inflatable rides. Live music, from country to "doo-wop" and beyond, will rock the bones and jar the memories of the masses.
   Activity will crescendo until the evening sky darkens. Then, to the accompaniment of patriotic music, fireworks will boom and boom again as the crowd collectively "woooows." The magic of Fourth of July will be here before you know it.
   And the City of Woodinville is busy making plans for it.
   The 40-acre site at JB Instant Lawn ‹ home of this year's Woodinville Family Fourth of July Fireworks Celebration ‹ is in stellar condition. The growing season must have been perfect this year because the grass is mature and thick ... cushy. The sod farm is a perfect venue for this community/family event and the city would love to see all 40 acres fill up with spectators. Capacity is 35,000.
   A modest magician, Steve the Pretty Good, has been booked for the entertainment stage, as have The Rangers, a country group, and The Edsels, a 50s-60s classics group. Four inflatable rides, including a 40-foot inflatable slide, will grace the grounds and an Arts and Crafts Tent, free of charge for 3 to 10 year olds, will provide even more fun for youngsters.
   Families are encouraged to bring picnics, but food and beverage vendors will be on hand with the likes of shaved ice, Kettle Korn, hot dogs and soft drinks.
   Entertainment Fireworks Inc. ‹responsible for more than 100 fireworks displays throughout the region ‹ will supply the evening's "flare." Greg Ray, licensed pyrotechnic operator, will oversee the job. He'll have a crew of six to 10 on site July 4.
   Actually, he'll start with a skeleton crew on the second and bring in a few more on the third, before bringing in a larger crew the day of the show. They won't wire the "product," the shells, until the fourth.
   "We don't want to leave the product unattended, set it all up and then go home. That would be waaay too tempting for someone," said Ray.
   The goal is to run a lot of tests and be ready to shoot by 5 p.m. on the fourth; that way, if they run into a snag, they'll have plenty of time to iron it out.
   "The show will be carefully choreographed," said Ray. "What they do is make a stereo recording. One track has the music [for the fireworks show] and the other has numbered firing cues. The sound track is plugged into the public address system and the firing cues get plugged into an internal communication system. When they start the CD, the music goes to the crowd and the cues get broadcast to whoever is firing the show."
   The cues will sound like, "Stand by ... Fire 1 ... Fire 2 ... Fire 3," said Ray. Cues can also be called in rapid succession, "Fire, Fire Fire, Fire 7," he said, "Fire 7" being called so that the panel operator knows what button they're on.
   The person firing the show stands in front of the control panel. It has 400 buttons which correspond to the firing cues. When the operator hears "Fire 1," they push Button 1 and continue to hit the buttons, in sequence, according to the cues.
   Though the control panel has 400 buttons, Woodinville's show will have 500-600 items, or shells. That means more than one shell will be wired to a button.
   Shells can range in size from tiny little things to the size of basketballs. The biggest shells in the Woodinville show will be 6 inches in diameter.
   When asked if we'll have a sky full of light or a sky full of boom, Ray laughed, "Oh, a sky full of light. Anybody can make booms."
   The firing takes place in what Ray calls the "safety zone." State law requires a clear zone of 70 feet for each inch of shell diameter. Since the largest shell to be used will be 6 inches, the safety zone will have to be a minimum of 420 feet, in all directions. This area will be roped off and patrolled. No spectators will be allowed inside.
   "To make the fire department a little more comfortable, we'll go with an even bigger safety zone," said Ray.
   Inside the safety zone, three people will be around the "piano," the control board. The rest will be on the perimeter and their primary job will be to listen for duds, fireworks that don't fire. It's rare that a shell doesn't fire, but in the highly unlikely event one doesn't, they want to be there pick it up.
   The display is scheduled to last about 20 minutes. After the show, the crew will wait 20 minutes. Then Ray will go out and inspect all mortars to make sure everything was fired. If something didn't fire, he'll personally dispose of it. Then they'll tear down the site, put everything away, clean the site and be on their way. At first light they'll return to walkover the area for a double check.
   "It's dark, after all, when all [the work] takes place," he said.
   Vicki Ray, Greg's wife, will probably shoot the show. She'll be the one at the piano, the board.
   And just as the Rays refine their plans for the show, the city, too, hones its plans.
   Behind the scenes Lane Youngblood, director of Woodinville's Parks and Recreation Department, et al., pull strings, grease wheels and do to what it takes to make such a big celebration happen.
   Apparently the enthusiasm and, more importantly, the participation of a few Woodinville Chamber of Commerce businesses has magnetized other Chamber businesses, creating a sort of multiplying effect of cooperation.
   "Over the years there has been more and more business support and collaboration with the tourist industry. I'm sure this trend will continue ...," said Youngblood.
   "When the city and Chamber pool their resources and energies, the events just get better," said Virginia Becker, director of the Chamber of Commerce.
   And community residents benefit.
   This year's extravaganza is billed as "the best on the Eastside."
   "And it will be," said Youngblood, confident of Vicki Ray's talent behind the "piano" ... and grateful for the community's behind-the-scene support.