Basketball-sized shells part of the plan for Nashville’s fireworks show

Weekend Extra
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The thunder and lightning are coming. Tens of thousands of explosives will light up the Music City this Wednesday night for the annual Let Freedom Sing! celebration, which combines the music of the Nashville Symphony with one of the most spectacular fireworks shows in the country.

Lansden Hill, Jr. of Pyro Shows is the man behind the magic. His Lafollette, Tennessee-based company has had a team of 20 technicians here since Tuesday. They’re working 12-hour days now until the 4th of July, putting the finishing touches on what Hill calls “the largest and most complicated show” his group painstakingly assembles.

The numbers are staggering. 60,000 shells, mortars and comets are packed with 33,500 pounds of explosives triggered by 100 miles of wire – enough to stretch from Nashville to Shelbyville and back – to bring you an unforgettable experience.

“Pyro Shows and representatives of the symphony have literally been working for months selecting music, fireworks that are appropriate for music and combining them into a spectacular, coordinated show of music, lights and sound,” Hill explained in an email exchange with News 2.

The largest shells set to be launched during the show are as big as basketballs, weighing ten pounds each. The explosives placed into the mortars pack enough punch to fire these huge spheres at speeds of 200 miles per hour. Some of the tiniest shells, about an inch in diameter, will be mixed in with the big boys for something special.

“One of the effects we use in the show that is a crowd pleaser and promises to be again this year, is the brocade gold chandelier scene that is part of Stars and Stripes Forever,” Hill says, referring to so-called gold willow shells, which fall in the shape of a willow tree’s branches after exploding. Hill calls them “elegant tentacles.”

Here are some other things Hill says to watch for during the big show, including something brand new:

“Probably one of the more interesting effects we are using this year are referred to as Ghost shells. That means that when the firework explodes, the stars are still invisible until a special coating burns off of each star, allowing it to illuminate in sequence. The stars in the sky sweep from right to left and then left back to right creating an eerie but fascinating appearance.”

“This year’s show will also feature one of the crowd favorites, the water fireworks. In one musical sequence, when the music is very low and slow, the Cumberland River will come alive with hundreds of small multi-color fire flowers that will dance and float to the sway of the music.”

“Sparkling waterfall shells are very unique. They burst softly and then gently fall like a gentle waterfall as they constantly strobe and sparkle. The lights from each shell last up to 10 seconds each. We will be shooting 64 individual waterfall shells at the same time.”

So, what’s in store for the big finale? “I do not know of a show anywhere in America that duplicates the power and duration of the thunderous finale that will immediately follow the symphony performance,” Hill says. “We decided years ago to ratchet up the power of the fireworks show during the finale song, but we wait to the conclusion of the music to turn up the volume to full strength.”

News 2 is your official home of Nashville’s 4th of July fireworks show. Our coverage of Let Freedom Sing! and the big show begins at 9:00 p.m. Wednesday. You can watch on TV or streaming online, including a special “one camera viewing” option.

Want more fireworks? Watch last year’s spectacular fireworks show.  

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