As Philadelphia prepares to ring in the New Year with fireworks, crews were busy setting up the display Thursday on a barge tied up at the Navy Yard.
These days, a fireworks display is a very high-tech operation—but you wouldn’t know it on this deck. The fiberglass tubes that hold the shells are battered and capped with tinfoil held in place with ordinary rubber bands.
Inside the tubes, wires fasten onto electric matches, which ignite with a jolting jump in voltage and set the fireworks’ fuses. A preset computer choreographs the whole show.
“There’s nothing like having it in your mind and then being able to see it. and we get a perspective that no one else gets. We’re dead underneath,” said Ken Furtoss, surveying the rows of charges.
After 20 years flying planes, Furtoss now runs Pyrotechnico, practicing what he said people in the biz call “dark entertainment.”
The seasonal staff on hand to prepare for New Year’s Eve includes a guy who runs a fence company, and special ed teacher Michelle May who works with kindergarten through fifth-grade students in Havertown.
“They kind of look at me funny. They’re like ‘Ms. May, you do that? You work with fireworks?'” she said, laying out a maze of wires to every charge.
She worked without gloves on a freezing cold day. Setting up fireworks, she noted, takes work to do.
“And in the end, 15 minutes and it’s all over with, but it was worth it,” she said.
The barge will be moored off Penn’s Landing. Shows on New Year’s Eve start at 6 p.m. and midnight.
Furtoss will be aboard. May will be setting off the fireworks.
VisitPhilly.com has a program for the New Year’s Eve fireworks.