What goes into presenting a Fourth of July spectacular, and where to see the results


July 02, 1998|By Karin Remesch | Karin Remesch,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Because of incorrect information supplied to The Sun, the family picnic after the Towson Fourth of July Parade was incorrectly listed as a public event in Thursday's Live section. The event is open only to members of the Loch Raven Area Community.

The public is, however, invited to the parade, beginning at 10: 30 a.m. at Towsontown Boulevard, as well as to a fireworks display at dusk from the hill at Loch Raven Boulevard and Cromwell Bridge Road.

The Sun regrets the errors

When spectacular fireworks illuminate the sky over Baltimore's Inner Harbor Saturday night, Luther Horine will be at the controls on a barge below, setting off each blast in concert with patriotic music. But when the crowd oohs and aahs, few will realize just how many hours of hard work go into orchestrating the 18-minute pyrotechnic production.


Days of planning, hauling heavy equipment and setting up more than three tons of explosives literally blow up in smoke in less than half an hour. Horine doesn't mind though. The roar of the crowd is more than music to his ears. It's a personal thrill.

"That's what it is all about, creating excitement, putting smiles on people's faces . . . making them happy," he says. "It brings me back year after year."

Horine, 58, has been a part-time pyrotechnician ever since serving an apprenticeship in his early teens with his father. And for more than 25 years, he has been entertaining Baltimore crowds with his craftsmanship as a Maryland region representative for Zambelli Internationale Fireworks Manufacturing Company Inc.

"We were doing fireworks when the inner harbor was still a working harbor and Harborplace was only in the planning stages," says Horine. "We used to set up the shells near the railroad tracks on Pier 2 -- now the World Trade Center."

With the changing looks of the harbor, the fireworks technology also advanced.

The standard booms that were set off individually by hand still exist, but in recent years firework designers have been using more whistle and crackle effects and the skies are being painted with more geometric shapes.

"Bow-ties, hearts and five-pointed stars have become popular patterns," says Horine.

He adds that while small displays are still lit by hand, today's computer or electronic ignition is more accurate. And when the production is choreographed to music, the detonation sequence imprinted on computer tape among the musical signals.

After hours of planning discussions with the Baltimore Office of Promotions, the organizers of the annual fireworks display, Horine started setting up yesterday for this year's event, and he'll be working right through Sunday when it's time for cleaning up.

Beginning at 9: 30 p.m. Saturday, Horine will send shells soaring into the sky from a 175-foot barge floating in the outer yacht basin midway between Allied Chemical and Proctor & Gamble. Low-level aerials will be set off from a smaller barge in the inner yacht basin at Harborplace.

Being a pyrotechnician is not without danger, but adhering to the utmost safety standards greatly reduces the risks, explains Horine, adding that except for occasional burns to his hands, he's never been injured.

"Safety is foremost on my mind," says Horine.

While the anticipated 175,000 to 200,000 spectators glance skyward, he and his crew keep a watchful eye on the tubes that launch the projectiles, making sure everything is set up properly to ensure everyone's safety.

And when the colorful bombs burst into air in the grand finale and the awe-struck crowd answers with a great "WOW," Horine knows it's another job well done.

Read on for a sampling of Fourth of July activities scheduled in and around the Baltimore area. Unless specified, events take place Saturday.

Annapolis fireworks. Watch fireworks over the harbor from the U.S. Navel Academy. No parking. Free. Call 410-263-7940.

Charles Carroll House of Annapolis, 107 Duke of Gloucester St. Tours of the house and garden from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Patriotic lecture at 4 p.m. Gates reopen at 5: 30 p.m. for an 18th century feast featuring a roasted pig with all the trimmings. Celtic music by Maggie Sansone, Amy White and Al Petteway. Waterfront lawn seating for fireworks over harbor. $30, $25 members, $15 ages 6-11, 5 and under free. Free parking. 410-269-1737.

Severna Park. Parade starts at 10 a.m. at St. Martin's in the Field Episcopal and Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, Benfield Road, ending at the Park Plaza Shopping Center. Registration for decorated bike contest for children from 9: 15 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Winkelmeyer Building, 540 B&A Blvd. Festival, featuring food, games, parade awards ceremony, from 10 a.m. to 1: 30 p.m. at Park Plaza. After the festival, open house and free swim from 1: 30 p.m. to 4: 30 p.m. at Community Center at Woods. Call 410-647-3900.

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