By J Larry Mattingly
Disclaimer: There is seemingly an
infinite number of variables that may be encountered during the process of
organizing and staging either a public or private fireworks display. Any number
of these variables can affect the start and finish time of the display,
pyrotechnic materials used, permits, location of display, and ultimate cost.
Lists of items herein may not be complete for all locations or events. The
ultimate success of the display will depend on the abilities of the display
company and the willingness of sponsors to understand and cope with the various
impediments. For those that are willing, there is almost always a way to get it
Someone says “let’s
have a fireworks display”.
But, where to start?
Here is an outline of
the approximate steps in the successful staging of a display:
display companies about the event.
display reps at site, one at a time.
Display companies review site and set parameters for
what can be done.
Decide on style of display and whether choreographed to
Invite proposals and review them.
Select a company for your event.
Sign contract and arrange for payments.
Secure written permission from land owner.
More items listed below.
Sponsor needs to
establish some idea of how much can be spent on a display. This can be difficult
but there needs to be a starting point. Display companies can help establish an
actual budget as discussion with them proceeds. But the sponsor should have some
idea of his limits.
Normally the display
company will take care of all normal and usual permits for the display itself.
Requirements for crowd control, street blocking, portable toilets and so forth
will be the responsibility of the sponsor. Sponsor should check with all local
authorities regarding any other requirements or permits for staging a display at
a given location.
items in planning a display:
monitors for the safety zone.
play music to accompany the display.
Permits for vendors.
Street blocking for traffic control and safety.
Here is some
information that will help you get started.
Barges with Tug and
loading location: Depending on size, location for duration of charter, running
hours of tug time, and the date, average costs may run $3K to $15K or more for a
single display. These days, barges and tugs are very rarely donated. These
figures do not include any charges from the display company, or required permits
and inspections. Barges are usually located and recommended by display
companies, but sponsors can arrange for them separately. Barge charges can be
included in the budget but are often paid directly by the sponsor. All barge
fired displays require at least one patrol vessel with water rescue capability.
There is a finite
number of Lead/Licensed Pyrotechnicians and equipment (especially barges) for
the 4th. Sponsors willing to go on the 2nd, or 3rd,
or the Saturday before the 4th, may be able to get a better deal from
some display companies. (Usually, more shells and other effects for the budgeted
time is vital. Very small events may get done in 30 days or less.
Larger events should
have 60 to 90 days advance planning.
Very large, or widely
advertised events can take up to 6 months or more of advance notice. DO NOT
WAIT…Check with local authorities for advance notice times and all required
permits and clearances. All too often the minimal notice time is barely enough
to meet all requirements.
A “Marine Event
Permit” issued by the US Coast Guard, is required for all displays fired on, or
over, or affecting navigation on all navigable waterways. Minimum notice time is
Selecting a site:
Even if it is a known display site used in the past, a
site survey and meeting with sponsor should be preformed by any display company
submitting a proposal for your display. An on-site discussion should take place
between the sponsor and each display company to decide on the best way to
present a display for a given event.
At this point the display company can make a map used
in applying for any required permits, and for site planning for the set-up of
There needs to be room not only for the display, but
also for the expected number of spectators. Spectator access to and from the
site must be considered. The size and configuration will determine what
pyrotechnic items, and what size, can be used. Permission from the land-owner
must be secured.
Selecting a display
Look them up in the yellow pages and on the internet.
Ask the State Fire Marshal which companies are registered to do displays in your
state. Also ask them about safety records of the companies named. Check with
other sponsors who have displays. Watch a display done by companies you may use.
Sit down and have a frank discussion with a representative of each of the
companies regarding their experience in your kind of event, what is required,
and how they are going to accomplish the display. Ask each one how they would
best enhance your event with Fireworks. Ask about their ideas for getting the
most out of the display.
Display companies may
vary widely in how many minutes in duration a given budget will produce. It is
not always how many items in a display, nor how long they take to fire it, nor
what one or more special items may be. Ultimately, it is how it is presented in
the sky. This is often the most difficult part of the decision. The prudent
sponsor of a display will look beyond the numbers in the proposal in selecting a
display company. Yes, the amount of product is important, but should not be the
most important part of the decision. Most display companies consider it
unethical to reveal what Sponsors actually pay for a given event. City funded
displays usually have actual value published as public information.
Fireworks are not now, and never have been a perfect
science, but are much improved over the last 10-20 years. Even so, in any
display, some items may malfunction or not fire at all. This should not imply
cheap, or poor quality goods, or, poor practices on the part of the display
crew. It just happens.
Many display companies say if 95% of the material
furnished functions normally, the display is considered to be complete. Some use
96% and a few use 97%. None of these numbers should be considered an unfair
standard of the industry.
Below are shown some
average prices for some events. Amounts are in US Dollars. The list is supplied
only as a guide as actual pricing may vary widely for a given event. All
averages below are based on land launched displays. No barge charges or land
rents are included. It is possible that one or two effects may be fired in a
small special event at lesser prices then shown. That is strictly up to the
sponsor and supplier and any actual reduction in price is not any way herein
July $5,000 to $100,000 or more.
Municipally sponsored displays in the NW $10 K to$50 K, averaging $25 K.
sponsored in the NW $5 K to $50 K or more, averaging $10-20 K.
4 in the NW that likely are more then $100 K.
Off Season venues,
(outside of the 2 weeks surrounding the 4th):
$2.5 K to $6 K or more. Average is $3 K to $4 K.
celebrations: $5 K to $25 K or more. Average is $5 K to $12 K.
Birthdays and anniversaries: $2.5 K to $6 K or more.
Average is $3 to 4 K.
Grand openings: $5 K to $50 K or more. Average is $15 K
to $25 K.
New product introductions: $3 K to $20 K or more.
Average is $4 K to $6 K.
Large project completions: $5 K to $40 K or more.
Average is $10 to $15 K.
Summer festivals: $8 K to $25 K or more. Average is $10
K to $15 K.
Winter carnivals: $8 to $20 K or more. Average is $10 K
to $15 K.
Private corporate events: $8 K to $20 K or more.
Average is $8 K to $12 K.
Sporting events: $5 K to $20 K or more. Average is $7 K
to $10 K.
Holiday lighting events: $4 K to $40 K or more. Average
is $8 K to $20 K.
Some of the averages
above are well less then the maximum shown. That is because there are events
annually at the maximum amounts. There are also many more types of displays at
other budget levels. It is possible for the same or similar display fired in two
different locations to be substantially different in cost. Distance traveled,
hotel rooms, crew meals, permit costs, physical set-up requirements, and other
aspects of difference can affect the ultimate price.
companies have their own contract that they prefer to use. Some may not sign
contracts written by others. Some municipalities insist on their contract.
If a contract is to
be written for a given event it should at least include:
parties names and when display is and what it is for.
the total dollars and the deposit and dates due.
the proposal for what materials will be supplied.
responsibilities of each party.
Check with both party’s representatives to be sure to
include all concerns.
resolutions for settlements of disagreements.
List the official addresses of both parties.
Parameters for setting a rain date.
Provisions for postponement or cancellation.
Set an agreed “minimal completion” percentage.
Other conditions which the parties may require for a
responsibilities of the parties are:
All permits pertaining directly to the display.
All display materials and equipment necessary to fire
the display and transportation there of, to the site.
Liability insurance as may be required
Lead/Licensed Pyrotechnician and crew.
The set-up, firing of the display, recovery and
disposal of all unfired materials, and in the absence of other arrangements,
reasonable clean-up of the site.
Agreeable to equitable deposit and final payment
A site large enough and usable for the planned display.
Provide easy access to the safety zone for pyro crew
and equipment truck.
Must provide good crowd control and secure safety zone
around the fireworks as per applicable regulations.
Spectator vehicle parking must be provided away from
the safety zone.
A fire/emergency lane must be maintained.
Provide standby fire service if required.
are a unique form of entertainment that will always attract a crowd. There is an
ever-changing effort to meet the challenge of entertaining people with fire.
Modern electric firing equipment, new effects and colors, higher reliability in
pyro materials, talented lead/licensed pyrotechnicians and better trained crews,
coupled with great imagination in choreography have made display fireworks one
of the best forms of entertainment.
©2015 Entertainment Fireworks,
Inc. All Rights Reserved.