The fireworks operator makes the sky his canvas

WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) — It’s a busy season for Allan LaValley’s Northern New York Display Fireworks.

“We’re the local guys, my business is based in Potsdam, so we’re kind of doing upstate,” LaValley said. “We get more and more shows every year. We have around 40 shows a year.

Pyrotechnics have captivated LaValley since he was a little boy. Now it has been lighting up the sky for 27 years.

“It’s every American boy’s dream to shoot fireworks and we can do it in front of crowds of people,” he said.

But it’s not as simple as lighting a fuse.

“You must be certified to own and possess fireworks in New York State,” LaValley said. “You have to have a federal license through the ATF, you have to have a storage facility for the fireworks when you’re not firing them, and then you also have to have a shooter proficiency certificate which is another certificate that you need New York State to be able to actually shoot them.

So how do fireworks work?

“It’s basically a string that’s been dipped in black powder and burns about five feet per second. All shells are what we call a bullet shell. This is a four-inch shell, at the very bottom is a lifting load. It is a small plastic bag full of black powder and depending on the weight of the shell and the diameter of the shell, there is a certain amount of black powder in grams. That’s how it’s produced,” LaValley said.

“Inside of it is a slow-burning fuse that has expired, so it will reach 400 feet before it hits the core of the shell where there is more black powder which detonates the shell. There are all kinds of different chemical compositions here that cause it to burn different colors. This particular shell is a big silver brocade, so it’s brocade like a big flower.

Several hours of work, thousands of dollars and two hands of ashes later, it’s show time.

“I look at it like the sky is my canvas and that’s where I can do my painting with the fireworks,” LaValley said. “I like a busy sky. And it’s all about the crowd’s ‘ooh’s and ‘ah’s. That’s what drives us, really.

LaValley encourages everyone to be careful and smart if using fireworks. He says never put them out in your hand, make sure you have at least 70 feet of clearance, and as hard as it may be, avoid drinking alcohol.

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