Sound Stories. Sound Voices.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You are on the KUOW archive site. Click here to go to our current site.

How To Put On the Lake Union Fourth of July Fireworks

Fireworks over Lake Union on July 4, 2014.
Flickr Photo/Scooter Lowrimore (CC BY 2.0)
Fireworks over Lake Union on July 4, 2014.

When the rocket’s red glare of the Seafair Fourth of July fireworks go off Saturday night, the show will be the creation of Heather Gobet.

Gobet designed the show. She runs Western Display Fireworks in Canby, Oregon, the family-owned company founded by her great-grandfather. It’s going to be a busy weekend for the company, which will run dozens of fireworks displays all over the Pacific Northwest.

And there'll be something new in the Lake Union show this year: the water cake.

“The water cake basically uses the water as a platform," Gobet said. "Instead of leaving from the barge deck, they leave from the water surface. There will be two points in the show where there'll be hundreds of these items that will function off the surface of the water, and I think that'll definitely be something distinctive.”

Preparation for this year’s Lake Union fireworks began almost immediately after the smoke cleared from last year.

“There are two levels to it, I would say: There's the art and then there's the science portion of it," Gobet said. "You really have to understand the execution portion of it in order to design it. Definitely it's an art. I see shows that are very technically precise, but they don't necessarily want to connect with the audience, and I think that there's just, you know, really fine balance where you want to have heart and soul as well.”

Her company uses Finale software to break the music down to 1/100th of a second increments.

“It also produces a simulation of the fireworks display so you can actually see the music on your computer screen and see simulations of what the fireworks will look like at the same time," she said.

Once the program is designed and the pyrotechnics assembled, one push of a button starts the computerized fireworks display.

Gobet has been working with her family’s fireworks company since she was a teenager, but says she’s still fascinated.

“It's so easy to get caught up in the regulations and the paperwork and all the details that are required to execute a display," she said. "But when you actually go to one of these events and see the audience's reaction and see the magnitude of what you created, it's really kind of humbling."

Photo credit: "Fireworks on Lake Union," by Scooter Lowrimore on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)