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Lighting up the sky
by Garrett E. Valenzuela
Jul 03, 2013 | 1167 views | 0 0 comments | 52 52 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cory Wilcox, head pyrotech at Lantis Fireworks and Lasers, prepares a string of fireworks atop John Ascuaga’s Nugget Wednesday morning for the 14th annual Star Spangled Sparks. Wilcox and his crew prepared about 1,500 shooting effects for tonight’s aerial display, which is set for 9:45 p.m., weather permitting.
Cory Wilcox, head pyrotech at Lantis Fireworks and Lasers, prepares a string of fireworks atop John Ascuaga’s Nugget Wednesday morning for the 14th annual Star Spangled Sparks. Wilcox and his crew prepared about 1,500 shooting effects for tonight’s aerial display, which is set for 9:45 p.m., weather permitting.
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About 1,500 shooting fireworks will hit the sky on Independence Day at 9:45 p.m
About 1,500 shooting fireworks will hit the sky on Independence Day at 9:45 p.m
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SPARKS — For more than 10 years, Cory Wilcox and his pyrotechnic crew from Lantis Fireworks and Lasers, have come to Sparks for the annual Star Spangled Sparks celebration. While crowds of people witness the fireworks show from the comfort of Victorian Square, Wilcox and his crew work diligently from atop the towers of John Ascuaga’s Nugget.

Tonight’s fireworks show will provide 17 continuous minutes of explosive entertainment from about 15,000 individual shot effects launched from three separate locations. Wilcox, head pyrotechnic for the show, said the Star Spangled Sparks show, compared to the nearly 20 firework shows he conducts throughout the year, sits high on the list for the most theatrical.

“That is a tricky question because we could offend New Year’s,” Wilcox said jokingly in reference of his show in downtown Reno each year. “This is one of the biggest I shoot and it is the biggest, baddest and best of them all. Everything is choreographed and is going to be plugged into a music system with us. We go 3, 2, 1 and hit play. Then we are checking with each other throughout the show to make sure we are still on time with each other and keep shooting along with each other.”

Wilcox said each year he and his crew return to Sparks for the 4th of July celebration. He brings the latest in firework technology, even though he said it might not be needed. In Wilcox’s eyes, whether or not the show looks different is not as important as the reasons the families are celebrating.

“Every year you have to celebrate and the Fourth of July is a great reason to celebrate your freedoms. A lot of that is what the people bring to it and how they feel about it,” Wilcox said. “As long as they come in with an open heart, and be ready to have fun, they will love our show. Even if we shot a shell-for-shell identical show, it is going to be different for them because everyone is here for a different reason this year than they were last year.

“We do have new, bigger and better shells and everything throughout the cakes are the latest ones made. There is not a newer cake made than what we have sitting right here today. We bring in the biggest baddest there is on the market.”

The Nugget is hosting its 14th annual Star Spangled Sparks beginning about 4 p.m. with the fireworks scheduled to go off at 9:45 p.m., depending on wind and weather conditions. Victorian Square will be buzzing with a dedicated kid’s area, live music from The Buddy Emmer Band near the West end of Victorian Avenue beginning at 5 p.m. and plenty of local vendors to go around.

New to the event this year is the Sparks Summer Heat Car Show taking place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Victorian Square. The show’s $10 entry fee supports the Honor Flight program, taking local veterans to visit war memorials in Washington D.C.

Also new to the Fourth of July celebration is an Instagram photo contest held through the Nugget’s Facebook page, using the hashtag #patrioticsparks. The contest will run from 5 p.m. July 3 through 5 p.m. July 7 and it will allow anyone attending the event to send in their pictures and be interactive with the Nugget. Winners have a chance to win dinner and lodging at the Nugget.

Prior to festivities opening up on Victorian Avenue, the Sparks Marina hosts the warm-up action beginning at 5:30 a.m. with hot air balloon races and tethered rides. The Marina events continue with an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, the Model Dairy Boat Regatta and the Sparks Idol show all winding up around 3 p.m. Then, people can head down to the Nugget and Victorian Avenue.

While wind can play an important role in any delays in tonight’s firework display, it factors even more in the Lantis Fireworks team’s task while surveying the launch sites. Wilcox said safety is a top priority in today’s show and his team does not take the possibility of injury lightly.

“Throughout the day, it is ‘check, check and double check,’” he said of his protocol. “We have our wind sensors, which everyone hates, to monitor the wind. We will have a shooter and spotter on every roof watching everything that is going off, making sure it drops and keeping everything in check that way.

“The police and firemen keep us secure on the spots, especially in our hot zones and fallout area. That is why the roads and everything are blocked off. They are not just to make it inconvenient. It is for your safety. We want to make sure you have fun and not have to scramble for your life.”

Wilcox said although the locations may differ between those on Victorian Avenue and his team at the three firing sites. They all share a common characteristic in being with their families on Independence Day.

“You guys are celebrating in your ways with your family down there, and I am celebrating with my family up here,” he said. “We might not all have the same last name but we are all family just the same. We need to talk to each other and keep the communication going.

“The Nugget itself is obviously a giant family. Their staff is wonderful and they treat you like family. You become part of the family instantly and it is really, really hard to beat. Nothing beats family.”
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