‘Coach’ plans fireworks show to remember

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

When the sky lights up just after dark on July 3, Steve “Coach” Davis will have one eye on the sky, one eye on a trailer full of fireworks set to be launched, and both ears listening for the roaring cheers of excitement of spectators enjoying his show.

“That’s what I enjoy doing,” he said of soaking in the excitement of the crowd. “I’m a retired high school football coach so I used to get the adrenaline from Friday nights and the football game and this for me is kind of like that Friday night excitement. You want the people to leave really enjoying the show and I take pride in knowing they had a great time and were entertained.”

Davis, with American Fireworks, is putting together his fourth show for the Independence Day Spectacular, and is determined to make this year’s better than ever.

“Every show we get, no matter how big it is, we try to make it as special as we can,” Davis said. “We want to make it memorable and I think for a good fireworks show everybody always remembers the finale at the end. You want to end the show with a lot of color, a lot of big breaks in it, something that’s going to fill the sky with a lot of action and shells going off. When you walk away you remember parts of the show, but everybody remembers the finale.”

As he talks about breaks, fish, willows and percussion effects, it is easy to understand how much thought goes into each piece of a show as it is planned and put together.

“Going into building a show you want a lot of different types of shells and breaks going on, lots of colors and you want the sky to stay lit up and avoid any long lull periods where there’s nothing going off in the sky,” he said. “You want to put as many different things as you can, you know the salutes, the ones that go off and are loud and have good percussion on them, then colors, different effects whether it is going off different directions or the shower of sparks or willows coming down.”

Creating a fireworks show like the half-hour affair in Liberty Hill is both art and science intertwined. Davis says some fireworks are imported, already built into boxes, and others are put together by their crew and worked into a show.

“Some of the shells and everything we do here in designing finale boxes and things like that with different kinds of shells and breaks and things like that,” he said.

Knowing the product is critical to get a nice flow and build the excitement toward the always-expected big finish.

“The good thing is we shoot a lot of shows and when new product comes in we shoot it off or we have a video of it to see what it does,” he said. “As we’re putting a show together we know what each box or shell is going to do, so knowing that we try and put it together in a sequence to get a nice flowing show.

“It is part art, knowing what everything is going to do and the looks you want to get. Then timing it out is kind of the science part of it. It is all electronically fired so there is no lighting it.”

Safety is critical on site, but with today’s technology, Davis said there are no flames, and operators don’t have to be up close to set off the show. Still, he often misses most of the show itself because of the number of things he must focus on to ensure a great spectator experience.

“I don’t get to completely watch them because I have to keep my eye on a lot of different things, so I don’t get to watch the full effects,” Davis said. “I get to see the beginning of the shells going up and maybe beginning to break.”

So long as the audience leaves happy Davis leaves happy.

“This is the entertainment business,” he said. “You want people to leave with a feeling they got a really good show.”

Putting on the show for Liberty Hill has become a great opportunity and something the company is able to make bigger and better each year because the event is so successful.

“I think The Independent does a great job organizing everything, and the event every year we have done it has just gotten bigger and bigger every year,” he said. “I just keep hearing people all around Central Texas wanting to come out to Liberty Hill to see the fireworks show. I think the success of all of it is just in how each year it gets bigger and bigger.”

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