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300,000 Firecrackers for Chinese New Year! Photos and Video

posted Sep 5, 2012, 6:06 AM by Darryl Giors   [ updated Sep 5, 2012, 7:34 PM ]
Feb 21, 2008 

My friend Joe has been working with professional pyrotechnics displays for a few years now. On occasion he has invited me to some of his shows to either watch from up close or to help out. This year he invited me to Chinatown in L.A. to help set up a gigantic firecracker display with 300,000 firecrackers.

How could I refuse?

The story:

The morning of February 9th I met Joe at his house to carpool to the Southern California Fukienese Association in Chinatown. Another friend, Eddie, was invited and he drove us to the event. Much to his chagrin, parking was a big problem when we arrived and he had to move his car several times.

Upon arrival we met with Tom, the supervisor of the operation as well as a few crew already on site. Tom went over instructions for setting up the event. We had 15 boxes containing strings of 20,000 firecrackers each. On either side of the temple entrance Tom had positioned metal booms supporting one metal hoop each from the 2nd story terrace. When we arrived the hoops were suspended by steel cable about chest height from the ground. Each boom had a hand crank with a spool for winding the cable and raising the hoop. Our assignment was to tie the ends of 8 strings of firecrackers to one hoop and 7 strings to the other. We had to take care that each hoop remained balanced and that the strings of firecrackers would not snare or tangle as the hoops were raised.

Joe had the honor of raising the firecrackers using the handcranks up on the terrace . The two hoops were raised to the height of the boom arms so that the strings of firecrackers were extended vertically and suspended off the ground.

All told I didn't participate too much in the setup because there was a substantial crew. We were fully prepared with plenty of time to spare for the 11:30 AM detonation. I brought along my video camera for the event, if nothing else I wanted to get a clip of the firecrackers going off. Because things were in good hands in terms of setup, I devoted most of my time to taking video and snapping pictures.

There were many friendly people at the association. All ages congregate there and I was pleased to speak with such a variety of people. Everybody was offering wishes of good luck and happiness. They were very happy to shed some light on the meaning behind the firecrackers and the celebrations that day; The Chinese New Year is a time to usher in a year of good luck. The Chinese believe that lighting firecrackers scares away evil spirits that bring bad luck with them. Everything from incense to paper lanterns was on hand to assure good luck would be had by all.

Everybody who wasn't part of the pyro crew was dressed very nicely. Some of the women wore beautiful traditional dresses that were colorful and flattering. They proved to be quite photogenic. All in attendance were looking their best for the special occasion.

As the time drew near, Eddie was assigned lighting the strings on the East side of the entrance. Tom prepared to light the strings on the West side. The lighters looked something like a road flare attached to a pole arm. Actually, I think they just might have been road flares. I'm sure Tom will correct me if that's incorrect.

Chinese New Year 2008

The lighting went off without a hitch and the crackling lasted for over two minutes! Thankfully everybody close to the event was wearing earplugs. The plugs worked very well. My impression was that what I was witnessing should have been much louder. I've no doubt that to an unprotected ear the noise would have been awful.

When the echoes of the last firecrackers receded into the distance there was a cheer and hearty wishes of Happy New Year. After the smoke cleared a layer of spent red paper and burnt gunpowder was revealed on the ground all about the entrance and stairs. To the crew's relief Tom announced that the Chinese believe sweeping away the leftovers will sweep away the good luck. That IS lucky!

Breakdown was pretty simple and we adjourned to the downstairs activities area where we enjoyed a many course buffet style meal featuring Beef Chow Fun and many other delectables. We bade our farewells and made our way home in the afternoon. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day. I'm looking forward to participating next year.P.S. I used only one camera for video and photos. I didn't get pictures of everything. There are video clips of many things that are missing from the photo gallery.