By Mark Barnes
Jeff Wright and Rick Shriver had little beads of sweat on their foreheads as they showed off the lineup for last Saturday night’s Kuna Days fireworks extravaganza. It was warm, but not as hot as it was going to be for them in just a few hours.
In the middle of the afternoon most of the work had already been done, and the crew sat in the shade just waiting out the sun. Jeff explained that most of the mortar tubes with fireworks shells were hand lit, and that only the larger groups of shells were set off electrically to coincide with the choreography to the music.
Around 550 shells were shot off on Saturday night. In addition, about 14 multiple shot boxes known as “cakes” fired off 25-50 shots in fan patterns or back and forth like you would see the Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas do.
Wright and Shriver are employees of Fireworks America, a fireworks company that puts on shows and owned by Kuna resident Lloyd Stubbs. Fireworks have been part of Kuna Days for 25 years according to Stubbs, who started them to keep the crowds around longer for the vendors on Friday nights. This year is the first year that fireworks had been moved to Saturday night. If you looked at the crowd that showed up, the change in evenings didn’t seem to reduce the attendance any.
This is Wright’s eighth or ninth show he’s been involved in at Kuna Days. He thinks it’s in the top three as far as the numbers of shells and other pyrotechnic displays. One unique feature of the Kuna Days show are the fireballs. Set off away from the other mortar tubes are 14 large pipes held in place by metal posts. These, Wright says, are filled with a flammable liquid and have other charges inside for added effect such as sound or flame colors.
“California doesn’t allow them,” said Wright. “They’re somewhat unique to Idaho,” adding that they’re illegal in many other states.
When the fireballs go up, they don’t go very high, but they create a large flaming fireball that goes in the air 40-50 feet. During the show they were used to punctuate the choreography with the music and caused the crowd to gasp loudly.
The music, choreographed by the crew and broadcast over PA systems set next to the baseball park, was selected to go with the fireworks theme. “Fireworks” by Katy Perry and “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons were two of the five songs before the finale with the Armed Forces Medley.
The 19-and-a-half minute show occurred over the western baseball park in Kuna city park. The “fallout zone” from the fence to the creek and including the BMX park was cleared of people and the car show from earlier in the day.
Also scheduled in the show were several “false finales” according to Wright. After a particularly large group of shells went off, and at the end of one of the songs, a longer pause occurs. Sitting in the audience, one notices people beginning to get up and roll up their blankets only to be surprised when another volley begins to go off. Ha Ha. They tricked you.
“We always try to have ups and downs during the show,” said Wright. He added that it takes
a whole crew to put it together and wanted to share the credit with them.
Next year’s show may just be the biggest ever as Kuna celebrates 150 years. Requests have been made to the city council for a much larger donation from the city to help pay for the largest fireworks show. The vast majority of the funds for the fireworks show, however, relies upon donations and cash sponsors from the community to make it happen. If you are interested in donating, please send to: Kuna Days Committee, PO Box 453, Kuna ID 83634.