August 2, 2014

The work of fireworks

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Atlas PyroVision prepares for Independence Day in Williston

Fireworks will begin at dusk (approx. 9:30 p.m.) on Wednesday. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

For spectators, the annual Independence Day fireworks display in Williston lasts about 20 minutes.

For Mike Boisjoli’s team of fireworks technicians, it lasts roughly 100 hours.

“It’s about five hours of work for about every minute that we shoot,” Boisjoli said. “So it’s about 100 hours of labor from day one to finish.”

Milton resident Boisjoli is a level 5 (out of 5) fireworks technician for Jaffrey, N.H.-based Atlas PyroVision Productions. Although he’s the guy behind the Burlington, Milton and Sugarbush Fourth of July pyrotechnics, Boisjoli said Williston is special.

“The town of Williston is one of the last good, old-fashioned, classic hand-fired shows,” Boisjoli said. “The difference between manual and electric is you get more product with the manual show, because electric shows are very costly. You literally get more bang for the buck.”

Williston Director of Parks and Recreation Kevin Finnegan, who shelled out $8,500 for this year’s July Fourth fireworks, had lofty praise for Boisjoli and Atlas.

“They’re one of the premier companies in the country as far as fireworks go,” Finnegan said.

Boisjoli gave similar high marks for Finnegan’s town of employment.

“It’s one of those shows that we just love to do. We love to be out there. Williston’s such a great town,” Boisjoli said. “It’s one of those places where you feel very welcome and you can’t wait to go back there.”

Pre-fireworks festivities begin July 4 at 7 p.m. at Allen Brook School. The fireworks display has an anticipated starting time of 9:30 p.m.

The entertainment program is identical to last year, with carnival-style concessions, glow necklaces, music by SuperSounds DJ and a bounce castle for kids from Vermont Bounce.

“If folks want to see something different, then they have to step up with some volunteers to do it, because we’re pretty much maxed out with what we have going on,” Finnegan said.

What is guaranteed not to be a repeat is the fireworks display.

“We videotape most of the shows we shoot, so after we shoot a show we all get together and take notes,” Boisjoli said. “It’s actually an ongoing educational process. Every year we learn from the year before.”

Boisjoli, who owns a Subway franchise in Milton, contrasted his day job with his moonlighting gig.

“You’ve got two kinds of jobs. You’ve got a job where you go to work every day and you punch in, and you collect your check on Friday and you pay your bills,” Boisjoli said. “Then you have a job that you absolutely love to do and you don’t even care if you get paid—that’s the kind of job that fireworks are for the guys and girls who work for me.”

Boisjoli compared the experience of receiving a shipment of Fourth of July fireworks to a different American holiday.

“It’s like Christmas,” he said. “When we unwrap our presents, there are big bombs inside the box.”

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