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PyroFest brings fireworks and fun to Hartwood Acres

Rex Rutkoski
| Wednesday, May 21, 2014 9:13 p.m.

Eyes will be high to the sky once again as PyroFest returns to Hartwood Acres to literally light up Memorial Day weekend in world-class fashion.

The third edition of “America’s Largest Fireworks Festival” on May 24 presents fireworks displays, including a world-premiere program and a USA-themed and military salute daylight show at 7:45 p.m., live performances by five regional and national bands, an expanded children’s play zone and food vendors.

Last year, Derek Weber, PyroFest show producer for the New Castle fireworks and special effects company Pyrotecnico, said, “We do not intend to get complacent with the event. We have an entire list of new displays and techniques that we want to show over the years that would probably take a decade.”

That remains the philosophy “and always will,” Weber says.

The finale at 10:20 p.m. brings the world premiere of “Whole Lotta Love,” which Weber says has never-before-seen choreography, effects and imagery. The pyro-musical is designed to take the audience on a journey through different genres of pop music that relate in some form to love. It includes classics such as the Beatles’ “Love Me Do,” Etta James’ “At Last” and input on the subject from Muse, Beyonce and Guns N’ Roses.

Represented for the second year is Ricardo Caballer Ricasa, the acclaimed Spanish company founded in 1881. It produced the fireworks for the closing ceremony of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Weber praises it as is one of the top designers and product manufacturers in the world, having won more than 100 international competitions.

“They are producing a new, one-of-its-kind fireworks production (scheduled for 9:45 p.m.) for PyroFest,” he says.

The “Fantasy in the Sky” Fireworks Challenge at 9:15 p.m. brings to life the artistic vision of Barry Mendelson of Metairie, La., the winner of this year’s contest sponsored by Pyrotecnico and Finale Fireworks. He was one of 32 contestants who created a computer-generated fireworks show, and his movie-score program was selected to be produced live to open the nighttime festivities. Judges said his show featured “unique firings, a family-oriented soundtrack and great use of the firing site.” Mendelson says he is particularly proud of his “Superman” sequence.

Weber says the contest, in part, is meant to develop new fireworks artists. “Anyone can attempt to design and simulate a show online. However, someone normally does not get the opportunity to see their show fired live by a professional fireworks company,” he says.

Phantom Fireworks is slated for a 9:05 p.m. display that includes products that can be purchased at the company’s stores in the region. No fireworks are sold at PyroFest.

Hartwood remains a great venue for the displays and for spectators to take advantage of the natural amphitheater style of the park, Weber says. “With the size of the park, we are able to produce displays that are 1,200 feet wide and can go up to 1,000 feet high, while also having ground-level effects close up to the crowd. In comparison, the city’s Regatta Fourth of July shows are approximately 360 feet wide and can get 600 feet high.”

When the pyro is not in the sky, five bands representing several genres will be onstage from 3 to 9 p.m.

Weber believes there is good reason for the ongoing fascination with fireworks.

“It is a time that people can get lost in the moment of watching them and forget all the problems that life throws at them,” he says. “It brings communities and families together at events to enjoy the day and celebrate.”

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