Clearwater pyro’s business expanding

Pyrotechnicians prepare the Celebrate Clearwater fireworks display that was launched on July 6. Pictured from left are Craig Dugan, Jeff Hollinger and John Baxter.

By Sam Jack
The Times-Sentinel

CLEARWATER – In his second season as a professional pyrotechnician, Clearwater High School graduate Cody Hanna was able to expand his schedule from one show to three. He’s hoping to continue to grow his company, Victory Pyrotechnics, in the years ahead.
Last summer’s Celebrate Clearwater display was Hanna’s first as a professional. For the second Celebrate Clearwater show, July 6, Hanna and his team brought back the same special elements – lasers, lights, a soundtrack – while getting more ambitious about how those elements were deployed.
“The show in Clearwater depicted scenes from D-Day and the landing at Normandy, honoring the 75th anniversary,” Hanna explained. “We tied into historical moments and really tried to tell a story. That’s where we want to go with what we’re doing.”
Hanna, who designed the pyrotechnic part of the show, was joined by light, laser and sound designers, and a script writer. They all spent months collaborating on the Clearwater show.
The same went for two planned shows in Lansing, Kan. The first, slated for May 2, was canceled due to inclement weather and couldn’t be made up. But the unused fireworks from that show were incorporated into Lansing’s Independence Day display, which went off as planned on June 28.
“Lansing was the biggest crowd we have ever performed for,” Hanna said. “I don’t know an exact number, but I would put it in the 5,000 to 8,000 range. They fill up a big field, almost like a drive-in movie theatre.”
Hanna’s team put special-effects lights on scissor lifts, creating effects that swept across a 600-foot span.
“It was really pretty cool to see,” Hanna said.
What sets Hanna’s style of fireworks apart is the use of a computer control system. Lights, lasers, sounds and fireworks are all digitally timed and launched, so nobody has to run around with a flashlight, a punk and a fire extinguisher.
“On the Clearwater show, I probably spent 40 to 50 hours programming just the pyro side of it,” Hanna said.
Hanna said he heard lots of positive feedback about both the Clearwater and the Lansing shows. He would like to continue adding shows and scaling up his business – but that’s a challenge, given that each show requires a crew of 15 to 20 people.
“Right now we’re limited, but it’s something we’re looking at,” he said. “I would love to be shooting multiple shows on the Fourth of July and throughout that week. My goal for next year, I’m hoping we can at least double up and get six shows next summer, if not maybe more.”