Fireworks: the way to celebrate anything, anywhere.
“Wow! Look at that starburst!” exclaimed Charlie Gill.
“That’s called a ‘Crossette’,” Elliot McGee explained, “a really good one splits into four pieces which fly off symmetrically, then each of those breaks into smaller stars.”
Charlie Gill, Elliot McGee, Anakin Weeks, Leo Gallagher, Mickey Bayliff, and Darcy Edwards, six men thrown together by fate, sat in a flat-bottom boat in the middle of nowhere, watching the sky light up.
“Elliot, you know about these things?” Weeks asked.
“Yeah,” McGee replied. “I worked for the company that put on the annual show in my home town.”
“Where’s that?” Leo asked.
“Cincinnati. They do a show every year.”
The Cincinnati Riverfest is an annual, all-day, Labor Day party. The ‘waterfall’ display off of the Newport Southbank Bridge is the culmination of the evening.
“In London,” Mickey Bayliff joined in, “our big bash is on New Year’s Eve. We shoot ‘em off from a barge on the Thames and from the top of the London Eye.”
Another burst raised Charlie’s curiosity. “What’s that one, Elliot?”
“That’s called a ‘Fish’.”
In a ‘Fish’, inserts propel themselves rapidly away from the shell burst, resembling a fish swimming away.
Black sky merged with black water. The water below reflected a perfect image of the display above.
Bayliff continued. “Darcy, I spent one New Year’s with you blokes down under. You do it up big in Sydney.”
Darcy Edwards joined the conversation for the first time. “Yeah, we do. Two shows. A family show at 9 PM, then a second at midnight.”
New Year’s Eve in Sydney, Australia centers on the Sydney Harbor Bridge and surrounding Port Jackson, its main event is the midnight pyrotechnic show.
“In Detroit,” Anakin said, “we have ours in the summer in a cross-border party with the Canadians. Elliot, what’s that one?”
The International Freedom Festival jointly held in Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, is a combined celebration of Independence Day and Canada Day. It finishes up with a large pyrotechnic display over the Detroit River.
“Called a ‘Horsetail’,” Elliot answered.
Named for the shape of its break, this shell features heavy long-burning tailed stars that only travel a short distance from the shell burst before free-falling to the ground. This is referred to as the ‘waterfall’.
Leo looked at Charlie Gill. “Charlie, what about you? Where you from and what do you celebrate?”
“Boston, baby,” replied Gill, “the city that started it all. Naturally, our big bash is on the 4th of July. The Boston Pops concert leads up to the 1812 Overture of course. In the middle of that the sky explodes. How about you, Leo? What hick town do you call home and when do they pull out the fire crackers?”
The Boston Pops Orchestra hosted music and pyrotechnics show over the Charles River Esplanade is called the ‘Boston Pops Spectacular.’
Leo Gallagher smiled. “Well son, my hick town is a little bigger than yours — it’s called New York City —and this guy Macy puts on a big birthday party for the nation every 4th of July, over the East River.”
Mickey said. “I don’t recognize that one, Elliot. It sure is beautiful.”
“That’s a ‘Cake’.”
“Funny name. I don’t get the meaning,” replied Mickey.
A cake is a cluster of individual tubes linked by fuse that fires a series of aerial effects, and a single cake can have over 1,000 shots. The variety of effects within individual cakes defy descriptive titles, so instead, they are given cryptic names such as ‘Bermuda Triangle’, ‘Pyro Glyphics’, and ‘Waco Wakeup’, for example.
“Has no meaning, that’s generic,” Elliot said, “usually comes at the end of the show.”
The display headed for a crescendo, in a dome lit with many colors and a cacophony of sound.
“Think you’re right. Looks like they’re wrapin’ up,” said Darcy. “Get ready to move.”
Charlie Gill was leaning over the bow, swishing his hands in the water, and quietly humming the 1812 Overture, inserting guttural puffs for the cannon blasts. “So, what are they celebrating here?” he asked.
Anakin answered. “The New Year. Here it’s called Tet.”
The roar of the pyrotechnic finale and thousands of firecrackers in the village completely drowned out the explosion and dwarfed the small ball of flames erupting on the water. The black water of the Mekong River quickly hid the wreckage and gave a silent grave to six ‘River Rats’ on this New Year’s Eve. The Tet Offensive had begun.
Word Count: 740