Behind the scenes at the Salt Lake Bees Pioneer Day firework show

Posted at 11:35 PM, Jul 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-25 01:35:51-04

SALT LAKE CITY — As crowds gather for Pioneer Day fireworks displays, a lot is going on behind the scenes, even hours before the show begins.

"We've been here since nine o clock this morning settin' it up," said Jeff Adams.

Adams is the Head Pyrotechnician for Lantis Fireworks and Lasers' display at the Salt Lake Bees Pioneer Day firework show.

"Without the finale, just the main body here... It took us approximately, I think it was right around seven hours?" estimated Chris Ashby, who works for the same company but was the head pyrotechnician for the display at Liberty Park.

Adams' show lasted 13 minutes and 35 seconds, Ashby's show approximately 18 minutes.  Both shows were run by electricity, where all of the fiberglass tubes with fireworks are wired together and connected to a pin board.  Hitting each button ignites a different firework or "cake", essentially a cluster of fire works designed to have a certain effect.  Adams said all of the ones in his display are like the aerial ones you can get at roadside stands, but much bigger.

"And it'll tell you the times so I know exactly how much time it takes: 30 seconds, 22 seconds, then we'l choreograph that in the song 'cause I don't want them to overlap," he explained.

Adams has been in the business since 1990.  His co-worker, Ashby started at 18 and just turned 37 in January.

Ashby said he has had a few close calls.  After all, they are dealing with explosives.

"Just knowing that that stuff's hot and it's hitting you at whatever velocity it's coming down out of the sky, it's a little nerve-racking," he admitted.

Both pyrotechnicians said for their fellow Utahns, it's all worth it.

"Even if we're having a hard day or if we're exhausted and tired afterwards, just hearing the roar of the crowd afterwards," Ashby said.

"That's my payday," Adams finished. "Yep, that's my payday."

Both crews said after the show is over and everyone goes home, the work isn't over for them.  The estimated they will be cleaning until around 3 a.m.