It just wouldn’t be Canada Day without a showy display of bright, beautiful fireworks.
Every year, as the last bit of sun fades from the sky, people across the country are listening for that first big ka-boom. It’s the signal that the show is about to start, and a great time to be looking for a place to take in the show.
In Chilliwack, that will mean anywhere with sight lines to the area above Townsend Park.
Kevan Siggs, owner of Midnight Pyro, has been the man behind the show for several years running. By the time that first firework is blasted off, countless work hours will have gone into getting everything ready. A crew meets up early in the week before the show, to go over details and prepare for the night. Then, on Saturday, a team of about 12 is on site all day moving everything into place.
In total, they are putting on a show that will last between 18 and 19 minutes — “Twenty minutes gets boring,” he adds.
To get an idea of what goes into that time frame, Siggs says, there is almost always something firing.
“For every single shot that goes off, there is a wire and blasting cap that goes to an electronic control panel,” he says, lit with what they call an ‘e-match.’
And sometimes there are 300 shots going off in the space of 15 seconds.
There’s a lot of acquired knowledge that goes into commanding a professional pyrotechnics show. But at the end of day, it all comes down to making sure there’s always something for the audience to enjoy.
“We always want to have something in the air,” Siggs says. “There’s got to be something in the sky that’s going to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ you, and sometimes surprise you. We just try to fill the skyline the best we can.”
While fireworks are often associated with the Fourth of July, Canadians have a long history of enjoying fireworks.
When the British North America Act was enacted in 1867, that monumental step was not just celebrated in Toronto with bells ringing at the Cathedral Church of St. James. There were plenty of fireworks and other illuminations, military displays, live music and bonfires.
Of course, things are modernized now compared to 150 years ago. Siggs shops for shells out of a catalogue, and can watch videos online that demonstrate what each shell is going to look like in the air. The different types of fireworks are created using different components. Willows, for example, are created with magnesium. It burns for a longer period, creating that lovely draping effect of a willow tree.
Siggs likes dragon eggs, spiders and willows, among others. But the real fun for him is in creating personalized “cakes” that combine different types of shells to ignite into creative displays. After all, being creative and having fun is exactly how Siggs and his wife, Judy got into fireworks in the first place.
It all began years ago, when their kids were quite young.
“We lived in a great community out in Cultus Lake, and the dads would go out on Halloween to get fireworks,” he says. They would all gather together at one house to enjoy their fireworks together. One year he realized they were all spending about $150 each.
“I said, ‘there’s gotta be a better way of doing this.’ In the old days you actually looked things up in the Yellow Pages, so I looked for a wholesaler in the phone book.”
What he learned was that he would need a licence through the Ministry of Mining and Resources. One of the companies he approached for more information offered to bring him on and sponsor him. He helped with professional shows and learned a fascinating new hobby that evolved into Midnight Pyro.
“This is still a hobby for me,” he says. “We’ve got our full-time jobs still (at their own cabinet shop in Abbotsford, Nova Cabinets). We probably do eight to 10 shows a year.”
Their largest show is actually in Castlegar, for SunFest in the first week of June. They also are the ones behind the scenes at Cultus Lake events and the Hope Brigade Days. This Canada Day, they have a second team up in Squamish for the display there.
“We used to do a lot more, but we have been trying to pull back and pick our favourites,” he says.
Chilliwack is among those favourites. They’ve chosen a lot of silver and red shells for the show, to keep with the Canadian theme.
“I just think it’s a great family event,” he says. “I love what the City of Chilliwack is doing for kids and adults.”
He only has two requests for those coming to see the fireworks display. Please, leave your dogs at home so they aren’t as bothered by the noise. And two, make sure to applaud.
“I love it when you hear the crowds,” Siggs says.
The show will begin at about 10 p.m. at Townsend Park. For those who can’t attend in person, a live stream is going to be made available on the Chilliwack Arts Council website, under Events. And for those who think they can pull off their own private displays, think again. The Coastal Fire Centre currently has a Category 2 open fire prohibition. Fireworks are prohibited in this jurisdiction, except for municipalities who have received proper approval.