San Diego

Artists In the Sky: A Behind-The-Scenes Look at San Diego's Big Bay Boom

More than 4,000 fireworks will light up the San Diego Harbor for the County's biggest fireworks show

Thousands of fireworks will light up the San Diego Harbor on Independence Day in a spectacular show in the work for months, and a lot goes into making sure every shell goes off without a hitch. 

The planning for San Diego's Big Bay Boom started back in August and September when organizers began selecting music and pitching their project to San Diego officials. 

Sam Bruggema, Pyro Spectaculars Producer for San Diego's Big Bay Boom, says his team has been preparing the spectacular show for months. 

“It’s a big effort to get Independence Day (fireworks) for America," he told NBC 7, as his team of 28 worked behind him to put the final touches on the fireworks.

The testing began months ago when Bruggema and his team tried out the fireworks for the show, watching carefully how the firework performed in the sky. 

"Obviously it’s got to perform safely, that’s our first thing," he explained. "Once we know what it’s performance is -- it's the duration of time it lasts in the sky, the time it takes from when we launch it to the point when it breaks, that’s the most important, so it hits the beat of the music on time."

Then, once the music has been approved, Bruggema will begin to build the actual show: matching fireworks to the music. That means putting points in the show where they know they want the fireworks to break. 

"Certain music exhibits certain moods and feels, so we know there are certain types of fireworks that fit the look, the feel and the mood, and the tempo," Bruggema said.

One of the new fireworks added to this year is the quarter-quarter shell. When the firework breaks in the sky, the four quadrants of the shell will interchange colors, he said.

"It's shells like that, with the multiple color changes within the shell itself, and it’s not just your typical ball that changes colors from the inside out," he said. "It changes around the sphere."

San Diegans can expect to see thousands of fireworks light up the Harbor.

"We have 4,000 different items to pick from," Bruggema said. "It’s our pallet. We become the artists in the sky."

Bruggema said he has been working around the clock, even overcoming some local ordinances, to bring San Diegans the fireworks show.

He said it's been "really tough" to do fireworks in San Diego in recent years, and "it's going to be tougher" going forward, as officials have toughened regulations. But, Bruggema said, as a native San Diegan, he's excited to put on a show for his hometown.

"It’s a big deal, I want to perform for the people here," he said. "But it's also, well it's my town, and we want to be able to keep doing it."

As for that Big Bay Boom mishap five years ago?

Bruggema said it's "impossible" that something like that would ever happen again. His production does not use timers or delays, and each firework, with the exception of the finale, lifts on a one-to-one basis. 

"That's impossible for us, it would take hours of engineering to have that happen," Bruggema said. "With that fine system we use, it just can't happen."

"Our systems are made so they don't do that," he added.

This year's fireworks show will be set to patriotic music, with fireworks bursting from Shelter Island to Harbor Island to the Embarcadero to Seaport Village. 

For everything you need to know before you go down to the Big Bay Boom, click here. 

Still deciding on where to watch fireworks tonight? Here's our guide to San Diego's most dazzling fireworks shows across the County. 

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