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Fireworks Locked And Loaded For Carnival Finale

May 1, 2009 — Each year Carnival’s grand finale erupts high above St. Thomas Harbor in a dazzling fireworks display rivaling the best of the Fourth of July.
This year’s show at 9 p.m. Saturday honoring President Barack Obama will carry on that tradition, says promoter Steve Bornn of Left-Lane Productions, who let the Source take a sneak peek at the preparations for this year’s display.
"It’s funny because a lot of people think we just come up here and strike a match. But there’s a lot more to it," Bornn said.
On Thursday afternoon he checked in on the crew from the famous Grucci Family of New York as they rigged hundreds of tubes on flatbed trailers with Chinese-made shells for the 24-minute show.
"It’s all choreographed to a certain rhythm," Bornn said as he watched the technicians carefully daisy-chain more than 400 charges together for the grand finale.
One of the technicians, St. Thomian Serena E. Williams, said she has been working behind the scenes for three years rigging the annual Carnival fireworks display for Grucci. She carefully wrapped and taped fuses under the direction of site boss Tom Guida, who oversaw all aspects of the preparations and did a lot of the worrying for the whole crew — six of seven of whom are locals and none of whom had to be reminded not to smoke.
The Grucci Family recently made history in Dubai with a $3 million display for the opening party at the Atlantis-Palm Island Resort. Grucci’s pyrotechnicians fired at least 100,000 fireworks from 226 floating pontoons and 400 balconies and rooftops from 40 different locations, across a distance of nearly 30 miles. The event was registered with Guinness for the record of the largest fireworks display in history, according to media reports at the time.
While not quite on that scale, Bornn promised an impressive display over St. Thomas Harbor Saturday night, an event that precedes the last lap of the adult parade and signals the end of this year’s Carnival.
Last year the V.I. Carnival Committee reported spending $65,000 on fireworks. Bornn said the budget was cut at the last minute this year, shaving off a couple minutes, but not the range of fireworks, which he said will still included signature effects such as corkscrews, hearts, and bouquets.
"The V.I. Carnival Committee has hired the best fireworks company in the world to do its show," Bornn said with the enthusiasm one would expect of a promoter. "That says something. That’s how important the fireworks are to Carnival."
"We’re not big on advertising time [of the show] or the number of shells. It’s all about how the show dances," he said.
"That’s what it is — a dance," he said. "A dance in the sky."
Wrapping tin foil around the tops of the tubes to keep out moisture, local technician Kevin Brown and apprentice Dienon Schuster put the final touches on dozens of tubes Thursday before the trailers are loaded onto a barge and hauled out into the harbor. The lot will be fired from atop the barge in the inner-harbor cove between Frederiksberg Point — near the old pump house — and King’s Wharf in front of the V.I. Legislature grounds.
Bornn said the best area to view the fireworks are from the downtown Carnival Village and the adjacent waterfront. While he said the advice goes unheeded almost every year, Bornn said spectators on mountains will miss out on a display specifically designed to be viewed from below.
Fireworks sponsors include Tropical Shipping, Boynes Trucking Systems and Crowley Maritime, as well as the V.I. Department of Tourism.
The fireworks set the stage for Carnival’s Last Lap from 10 p.m. Saturday till 2 a.m. Sunday.
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