July 29 – Jubilee Fireworks – England

As a reporter now for 25 seasons, I will, unusually, not report on the this itself. This is because I was honoured to be part of the Jubilee crew and worked with them for the five day setup.

I’ve known for many years that each display requires five days to setup, but it’s a whole different perspective to actually work those five days. The first two days were spent inside a large tent on Isle Notre Dame to do what is termed “pre-mounting”. The reason for the location is that another competitor was working on the firing ramps to put out their display. Since there are only four days between displays when there are two per week, this extra site is required.

Pre-mounting site (thanks to Mylene Salvas)

The pre-mounting team is composed only of crew members from the competing team. In our case, we had myself and Mylene Salvas from Montreal and seven people from Jubilee in the UK, though the display designer, Andy Wiggins, arrived on day two. Our task was to “ignite” and assemble as many one-shots as we could. The term “ignite” means to apply electric matches to the one-shots before assembling them in racks.

Mylene and I were tasked with assembling four large fans of one-shots, each one composed of 64 devices. These were to be positioned on three of the “access ramps” which connect ramp 2 (land) to ramp 3 (floating in the lake).

Fan racks for access ramps to ramp 3

After two days of pre-mounting, we moved to the main site where we were joined by La Ronde’s crew of 15, giving us a total of 24 people for the three days “in the field”. Some of us continued with pre-mounting one-shots, fan-slices, roman candles and so on whilst the La Ronde crew installed all the mortars on ramps 1 and 2 and then, with the supervision of a Jubilee crew member, installed all the shells.

Day 4 saw us start to install ramp 3 and this was completed by early morning on day 5 (show day). In the meantime, ramp 1 had been fully installed and tested and ramp 2 test was completed on the morning of the final day. Most of the final day was spent completing the remaining wiring on ramp 3, setting up the pontoons (ramp 5) and then checking and adjusting. Several crew members check that every one-shot “pod” was correctly oriented to the audience and that everything marked “left” was pointing left – same thing for “right”. A dedicated team then spent several hours on their hands and knees adjusting the angle on every single one-shot and candle – around 1500 of them, using a digital angle gauge. The slope of the ramp itself was taken into account and every angle adjust to within a tenth of a degree. And what a lot of angles: 30, 40, 45, 50, 53, 55, 60, 63, 65, 68, 70, 73, 75, 80, 81 and 90! Such attention to detail is one of Jubilee’s hallmarks.

Panorama of ramp 3

The days were long – meet for breakfast at 6:45, collect the packed lunches at 7:30, start on site at 8am. Thirty minutes for lunch around 12, finish each day at 6. Rush home for a shower and change of clothes then meet for dinner and finally get home for bed around midnight (or after 1am on the day of the Macedos show). Weather was perfect throughout the setup.

And then it was time for the ceremony and the show. We had a couple of small technical problems, but the display went well with just enough wind. I think it was the best one of the year, but I’m biased.

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