Pyrotechnician lights up the night sky

Pyrotechnician Eric Elias

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: Hey, we are in a last hours of a long Fourth of July weekend, so let's go out with fireworks.

Marketplace's Caitlan Carroll brings us the story of a pyrotechnic. His job is to make sure all the rockets glare red to the tempo of a symphony orchestra.


"Stars and Stripes Forever"

Eric Elias: My name is Eric Elias. I'm the pyrotechnic operator in charge of the Hollywood Bowl.

The shows at the Hollywood Bowl are a little bit unique. We are performing to a live orchestra. The gentleman who designs the choreography is a masterful artist, and oftentimes less is more. And he's painting not only with light, but he's painting with darkness.

Elias, at work: Show's scheduled to end at 10:35, four minutes before that, we're supposed to start on the finale.

They are long days, and I tell people who are interested in coming into this field that it's going to be hard, hot and sweaty work.

Other Bowl employees: There's a lot of sitting and waiting. That's right. And complaining while we wait.

We figured out once that the average on my crew is about five-and-a-half years of college. So it's a fairly eclectic group. I have engineers, I've had several attorneys, two physicians. I have a lot of students, I've had actors and I have one woman who's a rocket scientist.

I don't think the audience needs to know the nuts and bolts and the arduous labor that's involved in setting up one of these shows to enjoy it. I think part of it to me, part of what they enjoy and part of the mystery of fireworks is seeing it appear seemingly out of nowhere. Seeing the fire arise in the darkness.

Fireworks popping

Crowd cheering and clapping

I can remember being out at Jones Beach on Long Island, watching Fourth of July fireworks shows being put on over the water. My most vivid recollection is sitting there during a show -- and I must have been only seven or eight years old -- and a large piece of cardboard debris coming down on the sand, next to where our blanket was perched. And I remember being fascinated by this meteorite landing next to me. And I picked it up and I remember it was warm, not hot, and it had that smell.

Fireworks popping

And there's an old quotation, which appears in every issue of one of the pyrotechnic publications, and it says, "He who hath smelt the smoke, is ne'er again the same." And there's a significant amount of truth to that.

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