Jay Miller remembers well the thrill of going to a Fourth of July fireworks show when he was a little kid.
Even now the sight of the colorful explosions still brings out the kid in him and he’s probably seen more fireworks displays than the average person. For the past 20 years as a professional baseball executive, he has been lighting up the skies with Friday night fireworks everywhere he’s been. Now in his third season as president of the Sugar Land Skeeters, that means fans can marvel as Constellation Field is lit up after every Friday home game.
“Fireworks connect you to family,” he said prior to the show June 15. “What you’ll see tonight is a lot of families (at the ballpark),” he said.
Miller uses a company out of Dallas called Pyrotecnico to put on the displays. He has been using them at each Minor League and Major League team he’s been with, including the Texas Rangers. He said he was one of the pioneers of Friday night fireworks and now they’re entertainment staples at baseball parks around the country.
“You want people to stay for the whole game and when there’s fireworks after the game, they stay for the whole game,” he said.
Miller estimated that between Friday nights, special events, and Independence Day that the Skeeters host 15-20 fireworks shows a year.
“The Fourth of July is the biggest show of the year and that will last around 15 to 20 minutes,” he said.
In order to make emergency budget cuts this year, the City of Sugar Land cancelled it’s annual Independence Day celebration. Miller couldn’t let that happen, so the Skeeters teamed up with the Fort Bend Star and will host the 4th Fest on July 4. The team is away that day but the stadium is sure to be full.
Gates to Constellation Field open at 4 p.m. and the opening act, the Cory Green Band, will begin performing at 6 p.m. They will be followed by Mike and the Moonpies and the night will close out with a performance from Jason Boland and The Stragglers and a post-concert fireworks show.
“We’re excited about that,” he said.
Other attractions at the 4th Fest include a zip line, mechanical bull, a rock-climbing wall, face painting, trampolines, inflatable slides and much more. Vendor booths are available through the Skeeters’ partnership with the Fort Bend Star. For more information and to reserve your vendor space, call 281-690-4200.
Setting off fireworks has changed significantly over the years. Although larger displays still use shells fired from mortars, the ballpark displays are launched from cases of tubes that are wired together and connected to an electronic control box.
“They’re similar to the boxes that your can get on the side of the road for Fourth of July, except they’re a lot bigger. There’s a lot more pyrotechnic materials and whatnot in them,” said Stephen Lockett, a pyrotechnician with Pyrotecnico.
Last Friday he was working by himself at the Skeeters game. Normally there is more than one person working but right now the company is spread a little thin.
“The company does a lot of other things too, special effects stuff, concerts and stage pyro, and at this point we’re getting ready for Fourth of July, so it’s crazy right now,” he said. “We’ve got the weekend before, the weekend after and the Fourth of July, so it’s nuts.”
The size and type of show determines the manpower needed.
“This type of show, I’d say it takes me about three hours. On the Fourth of July shows, some of them will take three days, and then you’re talking about a 15-minute show,” he said. “For an actual shell show, we have these mortars and they come anywhere from two inches in diameter up to 10 inches in diameter. Above 10 inches you’ve got to go up to a different code, basically, it’s kind of like dynamite. You have to have a totally different license, different permit.”
A Friday night show in Sugar Land will last about six to seven minutes.
A typical Independence Day show will go about 15 to 20 minutes.
“The bigger ones like the Houston show will have seven or eight people and take three or four days to set it up just for that 15 to 20 minutes,” Lockett said.
Being a pyrotechnician means being safety-minded at all times. He is licensed by the state to do this type of work.
“We’re very careful. Safety is our company’s number one things we think about. That’s our number one goal,” Lockett said. “They’re fairly safe these days as long as you’re aware and know what you’re doing and you’re careful about what you’re doing.”
Miller said he never gets tired of watching fireworks, but there is one thing that always improves the show.
“Fireworks are always better after a win,” he said.