Tips for Using Fireworks for Attractions Large and Small
After the sun sets, a night sky aglow with bursts of color can attract and captivate guests of all ages.
“Fireworks at theme parks give guests a reason to stay a few extra hours spending money,” says Joe Rozzi, vice president of Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks. “As well, fireworks add to the park’s entertainment value.”
Staging a fireworks presentation may not be as difficult as some may expect as they plan for next season. Several parks from around the world share with Funworld the benefit they find by adding fireworks to their entertainment package and how they do it.
Light Up the Night
Blackpool Pleasure Beach along the Irish Sea in Blackpool, England, first began offering a “Late Night Riding” ticket in 2015 that combines roller coaster rides after dark with fireworks viewing.
“These events keep the park open from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., with a spectacular fireworks display taking place at 10 p.m.,” says Stephen Burton, a Blackpool Pleasure Beach spokesperson. “The events have proved to be hugely popular and drive large attendance.”
At Canada’s Wonderland north of Toronto, “all four of our fireworks displays take place on holidays here in Canada, and through our marketing and awareness, they’re positioned as a highlight of the long weekend,” says Grace Peacock, the park’s director of communications. “The resulting attendance each night for the shows is indicative that our guests feel that way too.”
With soaring daytime temperatures in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Global Village stays open until midnight or later on weekends and holidays October through April. The park’s 9 p.m. fireworks displays are designed to attract evening guests once outside temperatures begin to cool.
“We use fireworks as a lead-in,” says Neil Dwyer, director of Global Village. “We pitch it to guests as, ‘Arrive, enjoy some rides, have dinner, watch the 9 o’clock fireworks, and then see the concert that usually runs until 11 p.m.’”
However, part of the key to harnessing the profitability of fireworks is to try to ensure the display cannot be seen outside of the park—tough to do when charges are bursting hundreds of feet in the sky. At Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, New Jersey, visitors can watch its fireworks off-property on the Boardwalk.
“So while the public part of the Boardwalk will see crowds of people gathering for the fireworks display, we’re not certain it extends the length of stay of our visitors,” explains Tyler Jacobs, Morey’s admission manager.
The development of smaller, “close-up” fireworks have brought down the costs of a display, allowing budgets of all sizes to harness the power of pyrotechnics.
Hire a Pro
Pyrotechnics professionals can help guide attractions to select the right program for their location, at the right price. The time to begin planning a show? Now.
“Vendors can book dates a year or more in advance, so it’s always a good idea to reach out as soon as possible,” says Jennie Boyer, director of human resources and entertainment for Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Georgia. A fireworks performance on Independence Day was the highlight of the park’s “Celebrate America Week” this year.
When shopping for a fireworks vendor, attractions should make a checklist and plan ahead, says Gregg Smith, safety program manager with the American Pyrotechnics Association.
“Check the references of possible vendors, meet and review possible launch locations to determine what type of fireworks and pyrotechnics will work best, and establish a budget,” he says. “This process may take several weeks and longer to get completed.”
Creating a Display
Today’s fireworks displays are computer-controlled, with prescheduled firing sequences being triggered by “time codes” within their programs. These firing sequences are often timed to interact with recorded music for maximum impact.
Managing complex fireworks displays is no small matter. At Alton Towers Resort in Staffordshire, England—known for its fireworks spectaculars each autumn centering around Guy Fawkes Night—retains a large safety crew to ensure safety is paramount.
“A team of more than 250 people are responsible making sure the event goes off with a bang, from pyro-musical experts to technical engineers,” says Chris Carter, the resort’s head of entertainments.
That’s just the beginning. Staging fireworks in-house encompasses arranging for shipping, storing the fireworks safely on-site, and assigning park staff to fire them.
“Fireworks and pyrotechnic articles are transported via a CMV (commercial motor vehicle),” notes Smith. “Transportation is highly regulated and requires special permits, hazardous materials registrations, and specially trained drivers.”
All fireworks must then be stored in line with government regulations, while permits for all aspects of fireworks management must be obtained from the relevant agencies.
Add the need to train staff in the safe handling, preparation, and launching of fireworks, and it’s easy to identify why hiring a professional company is an asset.
“One can see why many theme parks hire a third-party vendor to supply everything needed, including delivery,” says Smith. Third-party vendors will also arrange to have fire department equipment on-site or nearby, depending on local regulations.
“At Wild Adventures, we work with a third party that provides licensed and trained personnel to set up and execute the fireworks displays,” says Boyer. “The vendor we work with applies for the necessary permits beforehand.”
The same is true for Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Dubai’s Global Village uses an in-house team and a professional pyrotechnics management company to handle its evening displays.
“We have a company that provides fireworks and is responsible for it, but we coordinate it fully with our entertainment team,” Dwyer says.
Coping with Cancellations
Technically speaking, there are no major problems associated with cancelling fireworks displays, particularly if a third-party vendor supplies the fireworks.
“Shows can be rescheduled or completely disassembled and returned if weather or some other situation cancels the display,” says Smith. “Usually there is a clause in the contract detailing actions to be taken in such cases.”
Having someone else deal with cancellations is a big reason why Wild Adventures uses a third-party fireworks contractor.
“Typically, we work with our vendor to reschedule shows that are postponed due to weather as outlined in our contract,” Boyer explains, adding, “since we contract with a vendor, we are not purchasing any stock.”
“We only cancel if there is bad weather—lightning, heavy rain, or low ceilings,” agrees Doug McBoyle, manager of utilities and creative services at Canada’s Wonderland. “If we need to cancel a show, our contract [with our third-party supplier] allows us to use that product in the next display. … If we had to cancel the last show, we have the option to push it to the following year.”
When properly managed, even with physical distancing provisions in place, fireworks can add extra pizzazz and entertainment value to an attraction’s evening lineup. No matter the size, affordable pyrotechnics can help retain guests, as long as the right fireworks are selected to suit the location and are handled safely.
James Careless is a Canada-based writer who covers the attractions industry for Funworld.