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BOOM: Ten Fireworks Fun Facts!

Sparklers. Roman candles. Smoke bombs. Ground spinners. Poppers. Snaps.

Why do we love firecrackers so much?

Is it just the joy of watching something explode? Or is it that feeling of waiting to see just where and when the dark sky will become a million colors?

We researched the humble (and explosive!) beginnings of fireworks and wanted to share ten fun facts with you.

1. Back in the day. 

During the first 4th of July celebration in 1777, fireworks were made of black ash.

2. Waaaaaay back in the day.

The first fireworks were thought to have been invented in China between 200 BC and 900 AD. The rumor is that bamboo was involved.

2. Illuminators.

Fireworks used to be referred to as “illuminations.” John Adams wrote a letter to his wife about how the Fourth of July would be celebrated: “The day will be most memorable in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade…bonfires and illuminations…from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.”

3. Pyrotechnic school...can we go?

Europe during the Renaissance was the place to be. Italians were famous for introducing trace amounts of metals (like steel and charcoal) into the recipes for fireworks in the early 1800s. These metals created sparks in different colors. Originally, people were awed by the simple glow of white light and booms, but then people decided they liked the novelty of red sparks and blue sparks and green sparks. WHO WOULDN’T?

4. Airborne!

To get a firework to go up, you have to have two explosions. Essentially, the firework has to be a canon. Taking care not to light the firework itself, someone will light a fuse that ignites the gunpowder and then once it is in the air, a time delay fuse will ignite. Time delay is calculated carefully so a firework doesn’t explode when it’s still too close to the ground.

5. Tick, tick, tick, tick BOOM.

The loud boom is actually a sonic boom! This happens because the expansion of gasses happens at a rate faster than the speed of sound.

6. All those shapes.

When a firework explodes in midair, it will shoot out light-generating pellets, sometimes called star pellets, out in a specific pattern. Depending on how it was packed will determine which shape the firework will take in the air. To create a five-pointed star, the pellets are literally arranged in a star pattern within the shell.

7. Who loves fireworks the most?

Walt Disney does! Or, in fact Walt Disney World. The resort consumes the largest amount of fireworks in the United States per year, thanks to nightly fireworks displays over the Magic Kingdom. #cinderellascastle #dreamy #ooh #ahh

8. A little less noise, please.

In the early 20th century, the Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noise campaigned against the use of fireworks. They helped create the first fireworks laws in the United States.

9. State laws & such

Ever wonder why (depending on where you live) you have to go across the border to get fireworks? Fireworks laws vary state by state and city by city. Wondering what the laws here are in Cumberland County? Most fireworks that explode, spin, fly, jump in the air or leave the ground are illegal in North Carolina. These also include firecrackers, ground spinners, Roman candles, bottle rockets and mortars. Sparklers are legal, but the County encourages people to wear safety glasses and to keep water nearby in case of emergency.

10. These days, shorter shows.

Thirty years ago in the United States, a typical firework display lasted an hour. Modern shows rarely last more than 20 minutes.

Sparklers are great for the backyard and the driveway. For a good show this year, leave the party to the professionals. Head over to Fort Bragg for the best show in town

By Erin Pesut