Tens of thousands of people grabbed a prime spot at Fort Vancouver on Thursday night to watch a spectacular Fourth of July fireworks show.
The show started just after 10 p.m. with some special gold-colored fireworks to help celebrate the event's 50th anniversary, organizers said.
Lead pyrotechnician Rich Clapp and his crew spent hours Thursday putting the finishing touches on the show before it began. They had to make sure every firework was in its proper place, hook up tons of wire, cover each tube with foil and check the entire system, Clapp said, all for a colorful display that's controlled by a computer in a wooden booth.
"It's all timed," Clapp said. "We just watch it, and when the first shells leave, we're happy. Then we know ... oh OK, it's working."
Months of planning went into the show, Clapp said.
First, organizers had to figure out how long they wanted the show to be. They then had to determine how much money they wanted to spend and pick the music, Clapp said. After that, the intricate process of picking each firework to match the music could begin, he added.
"Some of these things take a few seconds from when they light to when they go off," Clapp said. "And they have to calculate that in."
Tim Ackman and his family arrived at the Fort Vancouver National Site from Camas at 7 a.m. Thursday to grab one of the best seats for the show.
"I think some of the new technology is neat," Ackman said. "I noticed year over year, they seem to improve a little bit better stuff. There seems to be some more ooh's, some more ah's."
That's the best reward for Clapp, he said. He's worked on every Fourth of July fireworks show at Fort Vancouver since he was 17 years old, he added.
"I want them to come away with a smile," Clapp said. "And think this is the best show they've ever seen."
Copyright 2013 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.
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