Each year the fireworks get bigger and better.
Now, in his final year as pyrotechnics operator of the city of Huntsville’s fireworks display, Ron Cleere is looking to go out with a bang.
Cleere, a sergeant with the University Police Department, has been the man behind the scenes of the show for over 30 years. He became involved in pyrotechnics when his friend Jerry Etheridge, a Huntsville vet, brought the show to the city. He is contracted through Sky Wonder Pyrotechnics, a Houston-based company, which provides the fireworks.
“This is the last show I will be involved in ... I am hanging up my sparklers, so to speak,” Cleere said. “I will miss providing a great, free show to the community, but I need to spectate rather than launch at this point.”
In order to operate professional grade fireworks, one must pass a licensing test, get approval from the state fire marshal and department of insurance and undergo background checks each year by the ATFE and Department of Homeland Security.
“There is so much that goes into conducting these shows,” Cleere added. “It is very logistical and time consuming and you have to be passionate about what you are doing.”
Unlike many fireworks shows which use electronic ignition, each firework at the Huntsville show is lit by hand. Throughout the show, 240 rounds are launched, with an additional 240 saved for the grand finale, which are tied together and lit with a single fuse.
“We are one of the last shows in Texas to shoot fireworks by hand and we need a large group of volunteers to make it happen,” Cleere said. “We have to clean out each mortar and reload while we go ... It is very active and can be chaotic, but we ensure everyone is safe and following regulations.”
Cleere and the volunteers are able to shoot off one firework every 10 seconds during the 30 minute show. From set up to take down, the team puts in over 40 hours of work in just a few days.
“We do this show out of the spirit of the community,” Cleere added. “I could not do this without all the volunteers who put their heart and soul in it. I will miss doing the show and bringing joy on the holiday, but is time to pass on the torch.”
Attendees are encouraged to find a spot to watch the show at Kate Barr Ross Park around 8 p.m., with the show set to begin at 9 p.m.