Fire in the Sky lights up Columbia on Fourth of July

Friday, July 4, 2014 | 11:41 p.m. CDT
People gathered throughout downtown Friday to celebrate the Fourth of July. The Fire in the Sky celebration included concerts at Flat Branch and Peace parks as well as fireworks above the parking garage at the intersection of Sixth Street and Cherry Street.

COLUMBIA — Shafts of sunlight poked through the foliage in Peace Park as people garbed in red, white and blue sat on folding chairs and blankets, waiting for the show to begin. 

Smoke floated through the air, filling the park with the scent of meat and spices wafting from a Jamaican jerk chicken shack set up nearby.

On a stage near the west end of the park, local folk rock band Man in the Ring picked up their instruments. As the music started, a young girl standing on a tree stump began dancing to the rhythm and energy of Molly Healey's electric violin solo.

Although the music was infectious to some, it was only a precursor to the main event.

The 62nd annual Fire in the Sky fireworks display drew thousands to downtown Columbia's parks and rooftops Friday evening in celebration of the Fourth of July.

Cassie Dins, a recreation specialist with the Columbia Parks and Recreation department, said she estimated about 10,000 people had visited the celebration as of around 7:30 p.m. Last year, about 40,000 people came to the event, she said.

This year's display was provided by J&M Displays, a fireworks supplier headquartered in Yarmouth, Iowa. They set up on top of the parking structure at Sixth and Cherry streets for Friday's show.

Jeff Scott, lead shooter for the event, said J&M uses multiple types of fireworks, including shells and cakes. Shells consist of two charges: one that provides lift and a second that detonates in the air.

"For instance, this one is a yellow chrysanthemum," Scott said, holding a shell designed to emit a burst of golden trails.

Cakes fire their charges simultaneously. Scott said the cakes used by J&M contain between 25 and 500 smaller shells.

Scott's wife, Susan Fields, gave much of the credit for Friday's display to show designer Ryan Adams.

"Ryan is just so talented at this," she said. "I don't think it's something that just anyone can do."

She said the Columbia show was timed at 18 minutes, and most shows run between 15 and 20 minutes. The display was coordinated with a radio simulcast through KBXR/102.3 FM.

J&M has been orchestrating fireworks displays in the area for nine years, Fields said.

Searching for a piece of wood, and, finding lumber on one of the supports, she gave a board the customary knock.

"We've never had an accident," she said.

The fireworks were launched starting about 9:15 p.m., lighting up the sky and awing the crowd. After the sound of the final salvo had faded, the smoke and the smell of powder lingered in the air as the crowd cheered.

Supervising editor is Joe Guszkowski.

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