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.
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.
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.
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 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.