Celebrate Independence Day with the 'First Family' of Fireworks in OC
Known as the “First Family” of fireworks, the Zambelli Fireworks Company has orchestrated the 4th of July nighttime spectacular over the Huntington Beach pier for the past six years. I recently caught up with Caty Eidemiller, a longtime Zambelli Fireworks Company employee who has produced shows alongside her father, Jeff, for more than 10 years.
“I grew up in the business, and I still think [putting on these amazing shows] is one of the most exciting jobs you can have,” the 28-year old Eidemiller told me.
Caty’s father, Jeff Eidemiller, has been “shooting” (his term) for the legendary Zambelli family since 1981 as their chief pyro technician – and it’s hard to imagine a better man for the job. His energy and enthusiasm crackle like so many summer sparklers, and it’s evident that our local show is in the right hands.
“It's a really great show this year,” Caty explained. “We always customize something really special for Huntington Beach. This particular show has over 300 cues built into it – and remember, each cue has multiple fireworks. So it's a big show.”
Jeff’s responsibilities for producing shows, such as the one in Huntington Beach, include everything from setting up the equipment, to managing the crew, to loading the fireworks and making sure the display is fired according to plan – all the way down to the post-show cleanup. He even crafts the musical soundtrack.
Setting up the fireworks show on the pier in Huntington Beach
Photo courtesy of Chris Epting
Jeff started in the business at age 17 in his hometown of Arcadia. His pyro skills have taken him around the world, having created shows in Australia, Mexico, Canada and many other places. He’s worked at Disneyland, all 18 Six Flags theme parks, The Queen Mary, concerts by The Who and Garth Brooks, and many other events.
A purist at heart, he designs his productions using electricity instead of computers — thus allowing for the human element of actually pushing a button to launch the blasts.
“Hand-fired is better,” he says. “You feel it. And when you hear the crowd react, well, that’s why we do it.”
Jeff and his family made their way to Orange County from their home in Utah earlier this week, making a quick stop in Bakersfield to pick up the equipment they needed. At midnight on the evening of July 2, they took all their gear out on the pier and began the meticulous process of assembling and placing the equipment in line with the show’s choreography. The entire setup is currently resting under a thick blanket of security, ready and waiting for the show to begin.
On the 4th of July, literally hundreds of thousands of people along our coast will be dazzled by Eidemiller’s explosive production.
Some fun facts about the show:
- The finale will consist of 500 rounds of fireworks, set off in the last 40 seconds of the show.
- 12 tons of paper and wood are used to detonate the fireworks, and nearly all of it will be saved and reused.
- A crew of six technicians from Zambelli Internationale Fireworks Company lay two miles of detonator wire for the electrically choreographed show.
- Zambelli Fireworks is careful to ensure none of the launch wires from the fireworks show ends up in the ocean.
- Nearly all of the materials from the fireworks explode and burn; anything that falls to Earth is made of mineral salts and paper. The paper biodegrades within three days or less.
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