July 4 will feature a patriotic palette

Special to The Times

Advances in the chemistry of their art offer pyro-technicians a literal rainbow of colors for their rockets’ glare, but recent events have brought them back to the basics: red, white and blue.

This year, audiences at ballparks and other celebrations during the summer fireworks season will see displays in concert with a national mood that’s been colored by terrorism and U.S. troops in combat, said Marcy Zambelli, vice president of marketing for Zambelli Fireworks Internationale in New Castle, Penn.

“A lot of the cities are ... requesting that red, white and blue be a major part of the program,” said Zambelli, whose company is organizing Independence Day celebrations this year in Denver; Detroit; Pittsburgh; St. Louis; Laughlin, Nev.; and at Mt. Rushmore. “People are looking forward to getting together and celebrating our freedom.”

To meet that patriotic desire, July 4 audiences around Southern California can see “The American Journey,” a fireworks show that Pyro Spectaculars Inc. of Rialto, is unveiling this year. The company, which handles fireworks for the Anaheim Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers, among other teams, also is putting on Independence Day celebrations at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and in about 30 other Southland communities, said president Jim Souza, whose century-old family business is one of the world’s largest fireworks companies.


In addition to the standard overhead explosions, “Journey” will feature in-stadium set pieces erupting in color and flame, depicting the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell, Abraham Lincoln, the American flag and a special tribute to the space shuttle Columbia astronauts, Souza said.

Technological advances giving more precision to the timing and scale of the explosions allow such displays to be fired closer than ever to the audience, he said. Using computers to control everything helps refine the show even further, allowing the organizers to harmonize the music and visuals precisely.

Also, fireworks experts have recently engineered shells that display a much wider palette than ever before, including orange, purple, pink, mauve, lemon and lime, Souza said, enough to spawn a rainbow display. “It actually looks like a mistake” when the multicolored Roman candles begin firing in different directions, he said. But by the time they’ve all ignited, they’ve created a 10-color rainbow arch, “and the crowd will go crazy.”

Another innovation of the last couple of years is the use of projectiles that explode to create aerial smiley faces, among other designs. Stars, hearts, American flags and peace signs can also glow overhead, depending on what the audience might want, Zambelli said.

With so many designs available, the symbolism in any show becomes another factor organizers must consider.

“That’s where the design of the show is so important,” Souza said. “Where do you put the happy faces?”

“What I enjoy is being able to design these shows,” Souza added, “and create different feelings of fun, pride and patriotism in one show and know the audience gets it.”



Fireworks ahead

Rose Bowl: “America Fest” July 4, with live entertainment, “Summer Carnival” and fireworks. 5 p.m. 1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena. (626) 577-3100.

Hollywood Bowl: Concerts and fireworks July 2-4 by the L.A. Philharmonic and guest Kenny Rogers. 7:30 p.m. $6 to $120. (323) 850-2000.

Dodgers: Fireworks July 4 following 6:10 p.m. game with Arizona Diamondbacks, Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles. $6 to $35. (323) 224-1-HIT.


Angels: Fireworks July 3 following 7:05 p.m. game with Texas Rangers. $5 to $75. Edison International Field, 2000 Gene Autry Way, Anaheim. (714) 634-2000.

Doheny State Beach: Fireworks July 4 launched from an offshore barge in one of the Southland’s biggest displays. Doheny State Beach Park, 25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point. 9 p.m. Free. $5, parking. (949) 496-6172.