Blastin' Bunnies and other Fine Pyrotechnics

Lest any of you begin to believe that those of us who attend this convention aren't really "professionals" so much as grown up kids who who just want an excuse to get together and play with fireworks, I've provided the photo at left as evidence.  Fire cracker assault on the golf cart.  Ahem.

One of the first things I got to help out with on Friday morning was a really fun project called Bunny Blasto put together by a group called Jackalope Brand Fireworks (that's one of the group's founders, Bill Brett, at right explaining how the effects will work). It's an absolutely brilliant concept: a Roman candle shooting gallery!  And as you'll see in the photos, not only is the gallery a brilliant concept that taps into EVERYONE'S secrete desire to point a Roman candle, but the group's execution of the concept is just top notch.

The whole shooting match (I just had to say that) is bicycle powered.  The gear and wheel mechanisms from two bikes were used to make the track that the little exploding rabbits turn on, and that whole mechanism is powered by a bike which is pedaled by a lucky and intrepid soul.  Behind each bunny on the track is a mortar that holds a shell.  When the gunpowder target is hit by flaming pyro coming out of the end of someone's Roman candle, KABOOM - a shell goes up into the air and bursts right over your head!  There are a bunch of different effects built into the facade, some that even set off rocket powered pinwheels.  Just look at some of the decorative details too - they're so well done!

Here are a few shots of us helping make the pyro effects.  Below is one of the spinning pinwheels.   You can see two rockets, and that's a type of fuse called quick match (burns around 60 feet a SECOND) that has the two leaders going into middle where the fuse has been totally exposed so it's just essentially gun powder on a string.  As soon as any lighted pyro hits the very middle, it lights the whole thing up and it starts spinning like crazy, making a beautiful round nest of sparks.

This is Bill, priming the targets with a very fine grained gunpowder.

Finished targets, waiting to be loaded into the bunny track:

With a bunch of happy pyros on the assembly line, it didn't take long to get everything prepared.  Now came the hard part - waiting until dark so we could start shooting!

In the meantime, I entertained myself by fraternizing with fellow pyromaniacs and taking a fun and easy shell building class taught by a fellow named Richard Haase.  We get to select from all sorts of fabulous fillings: silver glitter, dragon eggs, aqua, willow, green...a wide array of colors and effects.  Those little round pellets in the cup I'm holding are called stars - it's one of the basic components of any bursting firework you see.  I've lined one half of my shell with aqua stars.

On the left, I've finished filling the two halves (aqua on the outside, silver stars and white strobes in the middle, filled with gunpowder coated rice hulls to make the thing burst) and now all I have to do is jam them together, glue it together around the equator and then put a lift charge (a dixie cup of gunpowder) on the bottom.  Later that evening, we'd go down to the shooting range and fire them off electronically (as opposed to hand lighting the fuse) which is really a huge part of the fun in and of itself!  Being out on the firing lines has become my favorite part of the event.

Alright, one more thing to tell you about before we move onto the night photos.  Fireworks are fired out of a tube called a mortar.  Most mortars are made out of a super tough high density plastic that is made not to shatter (i.e., no horrible schrapnel) when there's an explosion in the tube.  The item in the photo at right is a mortar tube that had a 3" report (those loud booming shells) explode in it.  You can see how the plastic has stretched, but not fragmented.  Interestingly, it's actually sitting on the table upside down - if you can imagine it, the explosion occurred in the bottom of the tube, not coming out the top.  I've noticed that people tend to display relics like this to help us all stay present to how powerful and deadly what we're working with is.  It's easy to get lulled into a sense of ease, so it's important to keep stuff like this around.

Night time!  At last!  Not so many good photos Friday evening, but a few:

Roman candle warriors at the ready

Bunny Blasto under siege

Poorly focused image of MY 4" shell - see the aqua and silver and strobes???

From the Friday night display show:

Those are gas mines going off in front, she says clapping her hands wildly:

After the public display had concluded, I high-tailed it out to the B Rocket line to work security and watch this madness up close and personal.  I love it out there and had a marvelous time, even when we got chewed out repeatedly for sending up loud reports late at night.  You know, the kind that set off car alarms.  Tee hee!

After the range closed, I went over and visited with some wonderful folks that I know from Burning Man.  We sat by the copper enhanced fire and swapped stories for awhile until I felt the need to stumble back to my motel room and fall in bed.  Smelling like gunpowder, smoke and happiness.

1 comment:

Unknown said...


Thanks for loading the Ashfork dam picture. My great uncle designed it. He died young of cassion disease from the high pressure involved in working on bridge footings for the railroad. I hope to visit it one of these years. So good to see it full of water!!

David Bainbridge