Rain or shine, expect fireworks tonight

Watercraft must remain 300 yards from fireworks barge

It was a beautiful day in July, save for a light drizzle. The forecast called for explosions.


“How’s he feeling about it all?” asked Sigrid Dahlberg.

“Well, you know,” replied Gary Stambaugh.

As two of the handful of volunteers in charge of this year’s Independence Day fireworks display, they were discussing the weather. Having recently spoken with a long-range forecaster, things were looking gloomy.

Although the call for rain is inevitable, the show must go on, Dahlberg and Stambaugh agreed, likening their work to composers of a masterful symphony of light, color and sound.

Having volunteered their time to gather the fireworks, prime them, and coordinate the display for many years, the final product is always wondrous — something of a mystery until the rain of light showers overhead.

“It’s never exactly [what we imagine],” said Dahlberg. “Sometimes it’s wildly different.”

Each year, they face a new and challenging task: woo the crowd. Which is to say, the more car alarms that go off, the better.

“We always think ‘how can we make it look different and better?’” said Stambaugh.

Having constructed the pods and firing stands on Friday, primed the explosives on Monday and performed safety and final checks Tuesday, the crew is getting ready for Wednesday night’s 11:59 p.m. show.

“We run the largest venue in Alaska,” said Stambaugh. “We put out the biggest shots.”

Stambaugh and Dahlberg will be aboard the DIPAC barge Wednesday, manning the switchboards that control each explosion.

The show will be massive with some 1,200 shells launching into the air over the course of a 25 minute sonnet in the sky.

In total, the whole operation takes some 300 man-hours and about $30,000.

Gesticulating madly, both described the Peonies, Bowties, Crisscrosses and other fireworks that the crowd would see from wherever their view may be.

But, those were menial explosions.

“Falling leaves,” they said, eyeing each other knowingly. “Mention that.”

• Contact reporter Kenneth Rosen at 523-2250 or at kenneth.rosen@juneauempire.com.


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Fri, 04/20/2018 - 06:01

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