Five hours before the first burst of fireworks over Point Stadium, the crew from Carrolltown’s Starfire Corp. began the arduous task of setting up the traditional show.
“Today and yesterday are the busiest days,” crew chief Dave Hassen said, explaining the company had crews working across Pennsylvania and into neighboring states for the Fourth of July events.
Johnstown’s show featured nearly 600 shells, or mortars. They ranged from 3-inch to 8-inch shells.
The larger the shell, the higher and larger the explosion, Hassen said, unloading supplies in a clearing near Greater Johnstown Water Authority’s tanks on Prospect Hill.
“A 3-inch shell goes up 300 feet and the burst goes out 300 feet,” he said.
Mortars are launched through tubes made of plastic pipe and attached to a wooden frame. Only the 234-shell finale was preset Wednesday, Hassen said. Fuses to all of the other rockets had to be ignited individually, using flares.
Much of the first hour of setup involved attaching the mortar frames to wooden supports.
Hassen and his crew angled the tubes slightly in the general direction of Point Stadium, where other workers were preparing for Wednesday night’s concert by Johnstown Symphony Orchestra.
The concert and fireworks have become an Independence Day tradition in Johnstown.
This year’s event began with the presenting of colors by a local Marine Corps honor guard.
The evening’s music featured patriotic selections, along with big band era numbers, polkas and sing-alongs.
Voice students Emily Felton and Max Fedore from the studio of Charlotte Aubrey were featured as soloists.
The symphony’s youth orchestra brass ensemble performed a tribute to the music of Glenn Miller.
Howitzers from a Pennsylvania Army National Guard unit from Fort Indiantown Gap provided cannon fire for Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” signaling Hassen and his crew to begin the fireworks display.
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