For over 20 years, Cal Expo has provided the Sacramento community with a magnificent fireworks display in celebration of Independence Day. More than 15,000 people are expected to watch the highly anticipated Fourth of July pyrotechnic show that is both the Sacramento region and Central Valley’s largest.
Have you ever wondered as you watched fireworks light up the sky what goes into making the show happen?
To get a behind-the-scenes look at how they do it, I spoke with Cal Expo’s Marketing Director Jennifer L. Castleberry.
According to Castleberry more than 4,400 shells (the encasement of aerial fireworks that detonates in the air) of aerial and low level fireworks will be set off to light the night sky for 25 minutes of music-accompanied pyrotechnic combinations.
“Last year was my first year at Cal Expo involved in the fireworks display and I have to say, it was probably one of the best that I’ve seen, ever,” said Castleberry, who has overseen fireworks shows in other cities.
The process begins three to six months prior to the Fourth of July during which time contracts are drafted. The budget for the fireworks, including staff time for organizing the display, approximates $80,000.
With the work of Cal Expo’s Project Manager, Paul Gillingham, and the pyrotechnic provider, J&M Displays, the music and fireworks that are are selected.
“It’s a collaborative effort between the fireworks company and our Project Manager,” said Castleberry.
A few days before the big day, the fireworks are set up at the designated display site. With a blueprint of how the fireworks must be assembled, workers gather the necessary hardware, tools and, of course, pyrotechnics to arrange the show.
After the display area is set up with the proper racks and tubes, the fireworks are laid out and shells dropped into the tubes, the wiring to the circuit board begins. After everything is installed, testing of the fireworks begins.
Aside from preparing the fireworks, proper fire permits and fire marshal approvals must be acquired and ready for Saturday morning.
This year’s festivities are made possible by Cal Expo, CBS Radio, the City and County of Sacramento. Admission is free with limited reserved seating for $10 and a $10 parking fee. The celebration begins at 5pm with family activities, food and live music and at 9:30pm the amazing fireworks display begins.
Spectators may watch from many locations near Cal Expo, but the best view is from inside the Miller Lite Racetrack Grandstand.
“It’s a pretty spectacular show,” said Castleberry encouraging people to go out and experience our city’s biggest Fourth of July firework celebration.