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 the Lawrence Jaycees.

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


Multidisciplinary 3 years, 9 months ago

Well thanks. I was sitting here, thinking of Rick and my classmates. I can't tell you how many went off to become today's computer guru's in big companies, owning their own, or are doing well in other businesses. They grew up watching the shows in the stadium, running around town blowing up everything. They could not only either build a website with knowledge that wouldn't worry their brain much, or have the software that could be modified, if they just got wind of this idea, and got together with the group to set it in motion.

Seems to me the JC's could do some fund raising on site..a cotton candy machine they can rent each year, glow sticks or necklaces,3D glasses.. can you rent a funnel cake cart? HOw about computer iron patches that say, 'I contributed to 2011 JC fireworks" for donations given at the booth on the 4th? They can print them off inexpensively, the kids/parents can decide what to iron it on..tshirt, bag, visor. Put the website url along the bottom of a logo. If it's non profit, probably get Office Depot or someone to contribute the iron on sheets if they get a tweak on the website.etc for other businesses too. Maybe Sunflower Rentals with a cotton candy machine...turn this event back into a "whole Lawrence" event again.


d_prowess 3 years, 9 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.


Multidisciplinary 3 years, 9 months ago

Set up a donation fund at a bank? Each year, several times, make mention of it so that people can know how to contribute. Do they have a pay pal account so people wouldn't even have to write a check and mail it? I think there are a lot of townies, even friends of the guys mentioned, LHS/KU alumni, etc, that might kick in if given a very easy way to contribute, and be reminded each year.

Better yet, if possible, how about a website, saying how much a shell costs, other items. So that donors can think and say, "I can afford to donate 1, 2 or 3 shells",..then they can sit and watch,watch on the webcam, knowing that three of big crowd "Ahh's" that they hear, and the little kids excitement, came from their generosity for the public good. Maybe even offer a thank you bumper sticker that says, 'I donated to the 2011 Lawrence JC Fireworks Fund". I bet there's someone out there who will volunteer to do a very nice website for you too.


maudeandcecil 3 years, 9 months ago

Where's the best place to view them from?


cheeseburger 3 years, 9 months ago

Thank you, Jaycees! I do not believe bwebcorp and d_prowess speak for the majority of Lawrencians who enjoy the show which is provided free of charge. Perhaps a show in some other town which charges a hefty admission fee would be more to their liking.


Trouble 3 years, 9 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


Clevercowgirl 3 years, 9 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.


cletus26 3 years, 9 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 3 years, 9 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.


Mary Alexander 3 years, 9 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


Machiavelli_mania 3 years, 9 months ago

Thank you, JCs. And thank you for bringing it back to Lawrence. We love the show!


bwebcorp 3 years, 9 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.


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