Archive for Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lawrence Jaycees prepare for Fourth of July fireworks display

Sunday’s fireworks show no small thing to plan

People sit in Constant Park downtown to watch the 2009 annual fireworks display put on by the Lawrence Jaycees.

People sit in Constant Park downtown to watch the 2009 annual fireworks display put on by the Lawrence Jaycees.

June 30, 2010


Kansas Jaycees preparing for annual fireworks show

The group puts on the yearly show over the Kansas River. Enlarge video

Past Event
Past Event
Lansing Independence Day Celebration

Past Event
Lawrence Independence Day Celebration

Food, music and fireworks

  • When: Sunday, July 4, 2010, 4 p.m.
  • Where: Watson Park, Seventh and Tennessee streets, Lawrence
  • More on this event....
Past Event
Basehor Independence Day Fireworks

  • When: Sunday, July 4, 2010, 5:30 p.m.
  • Where: Basehor-Linwood High School, 155th & Parallel
  • More on this event....
Past Event
Leavenworth Independence Day Fireworks



Baldwin City

Steve Friend, recreation commission director, said the decision was made to cancel the Fourth of July celebration because the person responsible for the event will be out of town. “It was a perfect storm of bad luck,” he said. There is also construction going on in the parking lot where the firework display is normally held.

Lake Perry

An event that normally attracts up to 10,000 people was canceled because of lack of funding, said Mike Stanley, manager at Lake Perry Yacht Marina.

Gary Saathoff stands directly below the Fourth of July fireworks display every year. To him, they look like a fiery shower of colored embers falling on his head. That’s because he sees them from where he lights them.

Saathoff and seven other men, part of the Lawrence Jaycees, set off the fireworks from a levee pit each Fourth of July.

Behind the scenes, Saathoff, the Lawrence Jaycees acting president, is an instrumental part of the Fourth of July fireworks display. He sees the fireworks through from the beginning, when he picks out the show, to the end, when he puts a flame to their fuses.

The display lasts 45 minutes, but it has taken more than six months to prepare. The show’s colors, shapes, choreography and music change every year. In January, the Jaycees meet with a representative from Western Enterprises, a firework company in Carrier, Okla., to pick which show they like best for the Fourth of July celebration.

“We call him, he buys us dinner, and shows us all the new shells on videotapes,” Saathoff said.

The fireworks

A fireworks show takes about a million steps to produce, said Gary Caimano, marketing director and choreographer of fireworks at Western Enterprises.

There are many shapes, explosions, colors and moods to choose from. It all depends on which shell — an individual firework — is compatible with another.

“You’re looking for things that work together,” Caimano said. “If you want a gentle moment, you want beautiful willows.”

This year, flowers, such as peonies and mums, are on the script, as well as pastel colors — hot pinks, lime greens and oranges.

Also this year, the Jaycees purchased taller shells, so the fireworks will go higher in the sky than last Fourth of July. That’s in response to complaints last year that some viewers couldn’t see the display from above the trees.

The music

Caimano said the fireworks shows are choreographed to the musical score.

“It’s like your eyes, it guides you through what you need to do,” he said.

For example, he said, references to the colors red, white or blue will need to have matching colored fireworks to back them up accordingly.

For Lawrence’s show, radio station KLWN chooses the 45-minute music set, and then it is sent to Western Enterprises, where the choreographers set the fireworks to match the songs.

Some towns that commission Western to choreograph the displays prefer more rock ‘n’ roll during the show, but Caimano said Lawrence chose to stick with patriotic songs.

“I think that it is a really a great gift to be able to choreograph the show,” Caimano said. “You’re always thinking about the audience and the children and the families that really want to be moved on this day — it’s about their country.”

The cost

The fireworks display costs about $10,500, said Rick Bellinger, a Lawrence Jaycees volunteer in charge of the show. The Jaycees begin fundraising for the fireworks in December, when they allocate any extra money from its Christmas auction to the show. The organization also uses the money it makes from the Children’s Festival for the fireworks.

The Lawrence Originals — a group of restaurants that also organizes Fourth of July festivities — pays for the rest of the cost, which is about 50 percent, Bellinger said.

Saathoff said raising the money to ensure Lawrence has a fireworks display is important to him because it is special for the community, and that’s what the Jaycees’ philosophy is all about.

The fireworks display will start at 9:45 p.m. Sunday at Watson Park.


Brandon Weber 7 years, 3 months ago

"The display lasts 45 minutes, but it has taken more than six months to prepare"

"A fireworks show takes about a million steps to produce"

Wow!!! All that work for a such a lame show. Better go check out these surrounding communities and find out how that put on shows that leave Lawrence looking like pre-school kids put it together. Again as it's has been said before why can't the Lawrence Jaycees put 2 and 2 together and lets put some donation buckets out each year for the next years show. That way the community can contribute directly to the show and you will know your budget because it's for the next years event. Or if your quick enough about it could be for current years event. The wife and I attended the event last year spent lots of money, liked the setup, but the trees were somewhat in the way and it didn't seem to reflect in a better show. Just a slow, drawn out one bang at a time, yawn. Sorry to sound down on the whole affair but every year seems to be just as disorganized as the last. Step it up and make happen.

Mary Alexander 7 years, 3 months ago

They do a very good job and I and my family enjoy it greatly. Keep up the good work. I will be front and center on July 4th. GO JCs

d_prowess 7 years, 3 months ago

I don't doubt that the JCs are a great organization and they do the best they can with the resources they have. My problem is that they don't seem to have any desire to increase their resources! bwebcorp explains an incredibly easy fix to at least try to increase the money to spend on a show. I have suggested the same thing for the past three years. Yet nothing seems to change.
The show is boring. As it explains in the story, they have to light the fuses themselves. That is why there is a considerable time gap between each shell and the show drags on for 45 minutes. Imagine if they raised enough money to make the show executed electronically. There could be almost a continue display of color and would last an exciting 20-25min. I am sure the cost is considerably more for such a show, but maybe the money could be raised. You don't know if you don't try.

Reuben Turner 7 years, 3 months ago

i thought it was a pretty good show myself. i don't have to spend a dime of my money on fireworks and all that is required of me is to bring a sit, if i want, have something to eat, if i please, and watch and talk, then go home. awesome!!! my advise to the haters; don't go, don't watch, put on your own display if you can do better.

d_prowess 7 years, 3 months ago

I don't hate the show, but for those out there that do, they can't legally put on their own display since the city banned fireworks. Therefore the Jaycees show is the only game in town. I guess I am surprised that everyone is just OK that it is such a long and slow display. Wouldn't you like to see them raise a little more money so that it could be better? Where is the negative in that? And I would think downtown would support additional fund-raising activities as well since it might then bring even more people downtown to watch the show and enter their stores.
People on here just seem to think that when you push for something to get better, you are automatically not appreciative too, which is not correct.

Clevercowgirl 7 years, 3 months ago

I have a question. Why does the fireworks show have to be where sight and access is limited, and parking is abominable. How about having the show at a place with wide open visability? Traipsing around in the dark woods is not my idea of 4th of July fun.

Trouble 7 years, 3 months ago

I think the JCs do a wonderful job. The city "tax payers" didn't put up one cent to help with the show. We go to watch it every year and enjoy it every time. So Thank you JCs for your time and efforts and your money out of your own pockets. The city is lucky to have this organization in the city. Thank you

d_prowess 7 years, 3 months ago

I am appreciative of what the Jaycees do, I just wish they took a couple easy and small steps to make it better. A 45 minute long show with pauses between every single firework is not a great show. Yes, it is free and I am glad to have it, but i don't understand why people don't want to see it get even better.

maudeandcecil 7 years, 3 months ago

Where's the best place to view them from?

d_prowess 7 years, 3 months ago

Your idea of letting people donate the actual cost of shells is so frickin' good!!

d_prowess 7 years, 3 months ago

I found this comment on the FAQ section of a Fireworks company website and thought it was relative here:

How much will it cost for a 30-45 minute show? First of all, 30-45 minutes is too long! The biggest shows I have ever seen or been a part of ran 20-25 minutes. I would much rather shoot a good, fast paced, quality 15-20 minutes show than a slow drawn out 30 minutes show. Your viewers will appreciate it too.

tomatogrower 7 years, 3 months ago

Maybe some of us would prefer to enjoy each one slowly and 1 at a time. If they are all going off at once, you can't appreciate all of the detail of each firework. Kind of like good sex.

d_prowess 7 years, 3 months ago

Using your analogy, I would still probably agree with my response above. I would rather have a "quality 15-20 minutes than a slow drawn out 30 minutes!"

tomatogrower 7 years, 3 months ago

Proceeds from the food tickets go towards funding the fireworks, so there already is fund raising going on there. Local restaurants are helping the Jaycees raise money. Try coming to the event. You might be surprised how much fun the crowd, the music and the fireworks are.

d_prowess 7 years, 3 months ago

I have been to the event and I agree that the overall atmosphere is great. I just wish the show was better. And I think we all understand that the Jaycees have things to fundraise, like the one you mention. But why not some very simple, low effort other activities to make the show itself better? I just want Lawrence to have the best 4th of July celebration better. We have come a long way with the inclusion of the local restaurants and such, but I still think we have the final step to take regarding the display itself.

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