Business booms for fireworks company

The weather cooperated, and the show, along with about 30 other Minnesota shows that Pyrotechnic Display Inc. puts on, went flawlessly.

More than 100 spectators gather at the base of the Stone Arch Bridge to watch fireworks over St. Anthony Main Sunday.

More than 100 spectators gather at the base of the Stone Arch Bridge to watch fireworks over St. Anthony Main Sunday.

Luke Feuerherm

As some Minnesotans feared a Fourth of July storm would dampen their boating or grilling plans, Dale Nowak of Pyrotechnic Display Inc. and his crew rushed to prepare their fireworks for a rain-or-shine show at the Taste of Minnesota.
After shielding the launch tubes with shrink wrap, the fireworks were ready to fire in the rain. The weather cooperated, and the show, along with about 30 other Minnesota shows that Pyrotechnic Display Inc. puts on, went flawlessly.
Pyrotechnic Display Inc. put on shows from St. Paul and Minneapolis to Duluth and Stillwater.
“Quite honestly, we never trust the weatherman because they can tell us it will be sunny and warm and we’ll end up having rain shower pop up,” Nowak said. “Last year, for instance, there was no prediction of rain and we had a downpour.”
Rain is just one obstacle on the road to ooo-ing and ahh-ing thousands with a fireworks show.
The Fourth of July is a popular time for fireworks and therefore a busy time for Nowak. About 50 percent of the company’s business comes from the Fourth of July weekend. Preparation for the shows begins in January, Nowak said.
Each custom show takes about a week to choreograph.
“We could take two displays with the same budget and make them look totally different,” Nowak said. “Every customer of ours generally has their own wish list of what they want to see in their show. Meaning, do they want an intense, shorter show? Do they want a layered show? Do they want a musical?”
The City of Minneapolis opts for an intense show.
It has been a customer of Pyrotechnic Display Inc. for the past three years, said Arik Rudolph, Community Events Coordinator for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
“Basically, we want a lot of boom,” Rudolph said. “I’d rather have a 15-minute show of fireworks than a 20-minute show that’s kind of drawn out and a one-firework-at-a-time kind of thing.”
Minneapolis funds its show entirely with private donations from businesses and homeowners.
The price tag for Minneapolis’ 15 minutes of boom is between $15,000 and $20,000.
Rudolph said this year’s show cost closer to $15,000.
Fundraising for the event begins shortly after the Fourth of July each year.
Likewise, Pyrotechnic Display Inc. works year-round.
After Sunday’s show, it packed up its materials and cleaned paper debris from Upper Landing Park before leaving at 2 a.m., Nowak said.
The company is already preparing for its next show this weekend.
University of Minnesota professor Lanny Schmidt said the danger and intrigue of fireworks is what sucks people in, not only to watch, but also to produce.
“There’s a theory that all scientists, when they were kids, were interested in making things blow up,” Schmidt said. “Chemical engineering is about managing chemical reactions … and one of those reactions that’s absolutely fascinating is the one that leads to flames and explosions.”
Nowak himself has become very accustomed to working up close with these reactions.
“It’s intense, because you’re about a hundred feet away from ground zero,” Nowak said.