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LISTEN: Here’s what it takes to plan the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks

A talk with the show’s head pyrotechnician.

July 2, 2019 By Scott Enman, Paul Frangipane, Lawrence Madsen
The 43rd Annual Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks will be returning to the East River this year. AP Photo by Mark Lennihan
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He’s the fifth generation Souza running the family business: Pyro Spectaculars.

On the Fourth of July, more than 70,000 shells in 28 colors will be shot off four barges near the Brooklyn Bridge and from the overpass itself. 

The show is consistently touted as the largest celebration for the holiday in the nation — and this year, according to Souza, they’re bringing some fan favorites with a contemporary twist.

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“When the first fireworks went off on the Brooklyn Bridge [in 2014], that was just awesome,” Souza told Brooklyn This Week. “One effect we’re bringing back this year is the American flag off the bridge, where we have layers of stripes in red and white with a layer of blue above.”

Souza will also be adding some color to Macy’s “Golden Mile” moment. Specifically, he’ll be enhancing it with rainbow colors spanning the bridge from one tower to the other.

From the Olympics to the old city walls of Jerusalem, Souza and his company have brought one-off events to people around the world, while continuing to return to New York year after year.

But the lights aren’t the only feature coming back for the holiday. We can also expect massive crowds and a strong police force.

Brooklyn Eagle reporter Mary Frost recalls the borough had about a half a million spectators coming to the Brooklyn Bridge area for the show in 2014.

“That was the year I thought the Brooklyn Heights Promenade was actually going to fall down,” she said.

And before 2014, there was a significant period of time that the fireworks weren’t shown in Brooklyn.

“After a couple years of this, people in Brooklyn started taking fireworks into their own hands, and it did become like a war zone,” Frost said.

For those who haven’t yet committed to plans, we’ve compiled a list of some locations to scope out the show.

  • Interview with Gary Souza at 1:14
  • Interview with Mary Frost at 6:12
  • Interview with John Manbeck at 9:27

Brooklyn this Week‘s host Lawrence Madsen is a native New Yorker. He graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in History, and volunteers with the disaster relief group Team Rubicon.

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