Minn. Volunteers Work to Light up Skies on 4th of July

Updated: 07/04/2015 5:11 PM
Created: 07/04/2015 4:24 PM KSTP.com
By: Brett Hoffland

Independence Day celebrations are not complete without a great fireworks show.

But of course it takes a lot of people to get those fireworks displays ready and make sure they happen safely and smoothly.

A nonprofit group called the Northern Lighters set up different fireworks shows at different spots around the state, including in Delano and Mendota Heights.

It's a true display of art hundreds of feet in the sky, but there's plenty of artists volunteering their time, perfecting that craft.

"We want to promote the safe and joyous use of fireworks, we don't want people to have a negative perception," Bill Hanson with the Northern Lighters said.

From set-up to tear down, this is a nonprofit group that's about 130 strong.

"I would say most of the people who work for professional display companies in the state of Minnesota either are still members of the Northern Lighters or at one time were members of the Northern Lighters," Greg Glavan with the Northern Lighters said.

There are dangers involved, especially dealing with shells used for the finale. The Northern Lighters say they enjoy bringing new elements to their shows and this year the crowd in Delano was treated to the Maltese Tower of Light.

"It'll just go boom, boom, boom, boom and they'll all be different colors, all be coming off at different heights and different angles," Glavan said.

Glavan said the organization will be the first in the U.S. to launch this kind of display.

And while there's decades-worth of experience, Glavan said he gets just as much excitement in the prep, as the rest of us do in the finale.

"Putting on a fireworks display is really intense physical labor but there's a saying in the pyro community: Once you smell the smoke, you're never again the same" Glavan said.

The Northern Lighters describe themselves as family. You can recognize them in their green shirts around the set-up locations and they're always encouraging others to learn about their craft.

A set-up can take as many as 20 hours, all for about a 20 minute show.