Seacoast Sunday newspaper, May 30, 2010:
Fireworks season set to go off tonight
Pyrotechnics shows are a Hampton tradition
By Amy Kane
HAMPTON BEACH – Summer explodes in flowers, sometimes even at night. Glittering peonies, blue chrysanthemums and white strobing dahlias bloom (loudly) in the sky starting this evening, and weekly throughout summer. Fireworks season has begun.
The first show is at 9:30 p.m. tonight on the beach just north of the Seashell Stage. In honor of Memorial Day, the rockets’ glare will include lots of red, white and blue.
Wednesday night fireworks begin June 23. They have been a beach tradition for more than 40 years. Special shows are scheduled for the sand-sculpting festival June 26, Fourth of July, the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, Sept. 11 as part of the Seafood Festival, Oct. 9 for the Harvest Festival and New Year’s Eve.
“We shoot more fireworks than anyone else in New Hampshire,” said John Kane, marketing director for the Hampton Beach Village District.
Warren Pearce, owner of American Thunder Fireworks, is the pyrotechnician who has put on the beach shows the past five years.
He is a choreographer of crackling light and booming sound in a hard hat, long sleeves and boots – with ear protection too, of course.
He gets a charge out of it.
“I want to leave people with a memory,” he said.
Pearce was a member of the local business association in North Reading, Mass., when he got stuck with the job of putting on a fireworks show. It was the beginning of a lasting relationship with multicolored explosives.
“I got involved in the artistry of it,” he said. “It’s not just lighting fuses.”
Pearce picks his bouquets of fire from an arsenal of flowers, horsetails, willows, comets, rockets, stars, crossettes, rings, diadems, whistling dragons and lollipops, and arranges them to contrast and complement one another before launching them at the night sky.
His favorite aerial shell is the Japanese-designed nashiki kamuro, which breaks red with a green strobing pistil and glittering stars. Pearce also has some special shells just for the beach, which burn blue or green with a silver wave effect. He is saving them for later this summer.
“Every show will be different,” he promised.
Fireworks were invented in China in the 12th century to celebrate the new year and to scare off evil spirits. China is the largest manufacturer and exporter and Pearce gets his stock from several of the more expensive Chinese manufacturers.
A typical show includes about 500 aerial shells and 600 more shots from cakes and Roman candles, as well as exploding mines. At Hampton Beach, Pearce fires aerial shells that range in size from 2.5 inches to 6 inches and explode 500 to 600 feet in the air.
“You get more effects out of bigger shells, but they break huge,” Pearce said. “You have to be careful with them and shoot them out over the water.”
Safety is the top concern. Pearce undergoes an elaborate permitting process with the state fire marshal. At the beach before each show, representatives from the fire and police departments, state parks and the beach precinct get together with American Thunder around 2 p.m. to check the latest NOAA weather forecast.
Lifeguards and public safety officials clear the beach between 4 and 4:30 p.m., according to Brian Warburton, state parks director. An area north of the Seashell Stage up to “The Lady” memorial statue is roped off.
American Thunder begins loading at 5 p.m. and it takes about three hours. The display usually begins at 9:30 p.m., but high tide can force shoots to begin a little earlier or later.
If the afternoon forecast predicts rain, the show is postponed to Friday. “When fireworks get wet, they can be unstable and dangerous,” Pearce said.
According to Kane, the Friday rain date allows families on vacation, typically Saturday to Saturday, to still enjoy the show. “Fireworks are part of the expectation of a Hampton Beach vacation,” he said.
Each Wednesday fireworks show costs Hampton Beach Village District taxpayers $3,500, said precinct chairman Gary Kubik. The July 4th shoot will be $10,000 worth of fireworks for a bargain $6,000.
The benefits: happy vacationers and a boost in business.
“It’s free entertainment in tough economic times,” he said.
Go & Do
Hampton Beach fireworks
Where: Across from C Street
When: Tonight and every Wednesday beginning June 23 through Labor Day at 9:30 p.m., immediately after a 7 p.m. concert at the Seashell Stage
Entertainment: The Continentals will perform May 30
For more information: www.hamptonbeach.org