Hmm where to start.

Some time ago my wife noticed a pro display company advertised in our local paper and she made the mistake of telling me about it. I immediately phoned them offering my services (dig holes fetch and carry etc) and much to my pleasure they agreed to have me along at their next show. I was on edge and over excited for weeks waiting for that call to say we were off.

Well the day came. Pete (Skyblazers) called me and said they were doing a show for Ripponden parish on the 1st of July. Yesssssssssssssssssssss!

Unfortunately one thing lead to another on the day and by the time they managed to pick me up and take me to the venue most of the gear had been set up already, well never mind I’m here anyway.

I was introduced to the gang consisting of 4 guys each with a wicked sense of humour constantly having tongue in cheek digs at each other and they fondly named Pete (my groin hurts hehe) Inspector Clueso for his constant checking of everything. The other guys on the team were Grenville, Dave and Mick.

Above: The Skyblazers team. Pete on the left Grenville in the middle, next is Mick and last but not least Dave sat precariously on a massive cake.

The display was set up in a tennis court there were 2 main shell racks filled with shells and a few 4″ mines. There were various shells made by Kimbolton, Igual kamuro shells, Bluemoon and Vulcan cylindrical shells. The first rack was the mainstay of the display with shells ranging from 3″ to 5″ about 100 shells in all in this rack all with various effects, the second rack was for the latter part of the show and the shell size went up to 6″ in this one and boy were there some cool shells in this rack. Around 4 Vulcan cylindrical double break fx shells plus the back of the rack contained the finale (the tubes with foil covering them). And at the back of all this were no less than 9 8″shells for use with the finale.

Above: Shell racks
Above: Varying sizes of shells being fused and secured by Pete (crouched down) and Grenville
Above: Grenville with the finale (covered in foil) plus some of the 8"ers in the background

For people wondering whether or not to use blockbusters here is proof that they are used in pro shows as you can see the rack (which I got to set up) contained 20 of these beasts, plus a Lidu candle but they were by far superseded by a couple of giant fan candles of 60mm bore made by Bluemoon (the photo with me stood next to them).

Above: The blockbuster rack with the candle bundles in the foreground and the guys in the background
Above: Me stood with the finale rack and the huge Bluemoon fan candles

Along the front row were 5 3″ mortar mines all fused to go one after another and behind them (in milk crates for stability) were 3 sets of 3 candle bundles of cat 3 flashing thunders and chirping orioles. And to complement this arsenal was a selection of cat 4 cakes by Kimbolton. Great western (fan cake) Red cross silver cross red cross (fan cake) Grand plan, Poisonous spiders, Big eight, 150 red spiders, and the AWESOME AWESOME Happy stars (don’t let the name deceive you) and a fifty shot 2″ brocade cake by Blue Moon.

Above: Here's the 8" shells set up against the fence of the tennis court
Above: Mick getting the cakes ready with Grenville and Pete (in the shorts) in the background

Well the time to start the show came at 11pm everything was to be hand fired and rather than watch from a distance I was at ground zero only a few meters away from the lot. First up to get proceedings going was a collection of Bengal red to blinker (strobing flares) the effect of these was surreal against the darkness of night. Next off (I think I was sooooo excited) were the mortar mines and the flashing thunders+chirping orioles the effect from a load of these going off was pretty good but only a precursor of what was to come.

BOOM!! Fuck shit I thought and leapt about 5 foot to the side as the first of the shells launched into action followed by 2 or 3 more BOOM BOOM BOOM as they broke and more launched while the first set of blockbusters burst into life, next came a cat4 cake and these cakes make the cat3 variety look very tame especially stood so close to them. BOOOM shit run for the hills I thought, that was louder than the rest had something exploded on the ground no it was a larger bore shell launching into the heavens it was at this point with everything going mad that I noticed I was shaking this was scary and exciting being up this close and personal to a pro display was something I’d always wanted to experience and what an experience but pretty soon the shaking subsided and I just stared in awe at everything exploding above my head. Now this was the weird part being at ground zero you don’t see shells burst in nice spheres they just spread out from the centre and look flat and with no point of reference to see them go up absolutely none of them looked as if they had gone high enough (scary).

It’s hard to put it into words what the actual experience was like because there was so much going at any given time, however one thing that will stay with me was the Kimbolton happy star cake this was a beast try to imagine 150 Brightstar atomic meltdown rockets going off one after the other at a much lower altitude THIS THING WAS MADNESS .For those of you who haven’t tried those rockets this is what the firework did. It launched shell after shell that broke with a LOUD report to hundreds of very loud crackling golden stars it went on forever the noise and effects were awesome.

It was at this point I noticed it was absolutely chucking it down but not with rain it was cardboard the place was covered I thought my new years displays made a mess but they were nothing compared to this lot, I had a silent chuckle to myself remembering the signs that were attached to the outside of the tennis courts because they had been resurfaced “NO OUTDOOR SHOES IN THE COURTS TRAINERS ONLY” hehe.

As the display went on all I was thinking was I want this to last forever alas Grenville had moved on to the finale rack BOOOOOOOM what the f%&k now something really has blown up on the ground I thought no it was the first of the 8″ shells sounding its presence as it launched BOOOOOOOM another these were something else the shock wave off these launches has to be felt to be believed especially being so close (no wonder Grenville wore a crash helmet whilst firing) they feel like someone or thing has grabbed you and shook you from the inside and for a moment you don’t know where you are very disorientating , oh well the last shell went up an 8″ crackling willow which broke majestically and hung crackling for a while before becoming nothing more than a trace of smoke followed by a huge applause of appreciation from the crowd.

Operation takedown

Ok shows over nothing to see here what goes up must come down. The next course of action was to check all the racks for miss fires etc a couple of the shells hadn’t played the game and were disposed of and one of the blockbusters had committed suicide halfway through its brief life but other than that everything had gone according to plan, time to separate the racks and pack the vans out with spent gear this took about three quarters of an hour and the smell was lovely (I’m a pyro nut).

After all the gear was put away (all the sweeping up was left till daylight I hear it made a ticker tape parade in America look tidy) it was time to got to the bar and drown in beer the guys were congratulated on an absolutely outstanding display and after that they told me plenty of pyro related stories plus a very funny one that I’d better not tell sorry.

Above: In the bar after plenty of beer and fun (apparently Pete usually wears his hair up)

And that was my fabulous day with SKYBLAZERS FIREWORKS OF SOWERBY BRIDGE WEST YORKSHIRE a VERY BIG thank you to the team for having me along for the day it was a dream come true.

With thanks to Graham Mann. Feature ©2002 UK Firework Review.

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