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l'International Benson & Hedges 1995

Montréal Pyromusical Competition Report

USA -- June 17, 1995; Saturday

The 11th Benson and Hedges International Fireworks Competition at La Ronde, Montreal, opened to an impressive display from the USA team.

The early part of the display was fairly ordinary, though there were some nice firefly type of star shells.

Later, there were some very good "shaped burst pattern shells", some of which consisted of a ring of stars surrounding a five-pointed star. Other shaped burst shells produced the illusion of large multi-coloured butterflies filling the air.

Also, a lot of mines were used throughout the display, with some excellent colours.

Most of the show was nothing out of the ordinary, which lead a friend of mine who was watching to complain that it seemed a little slow. "Wait until the finale" was my foresightful comment.

I have never seen such an amazing finale. It must have lasted a full five minutes. All hell was breaking loose in the air with more shells exploding than could be thought possible. Many of these shells contained very large numbers of reports and salutes and some particularly large titanium salutes. The noise was fearsome. Just when it seemed that as many simultaneous explosions were occurring as possible, the pace increased. By the end of the display, I was left shaking and the audience response was incredible.

It was a truly remarkable beginning to the 1995 competition.


France -- July 2, 1995; Sunday

This was a very good show for several reasons. First of all, was the use of a large number of rockets. Some of these were fired in very tight clusters, appearing to originate from a single point on the ground and giving the impression of a plant growing upwards very quickly with many stems, the stars of the rockets forming bunches of flowers.

Another feature of the display was the use of aerial spinning devices of every conceivable type from the small fast things which produce a loud "whizzing" noise and fly across the sky (I don't know the specific name for these - they look like they're formed from small Catherine (or pin for U.S. readers) wheels. Larger than the whizzers were many tourbillons, which rotate more slowly, producing silver sparks and often terminating in a report. However, the most memorable devices were five or six large rotating "things", for want of a better word. What happened was that the five or six things slowly rose into the air, rotating at a moderate speed and producing a very wide column of white sparks. They seemed to rise to a height of a couple of hundred feet or so and were most impressive. [I remember seeing something similar on a televised display by Lancaster in the UK].

There were some nice "shell of shells" type of shells - containing up to around 20 smaller shells which all exploded simultaneously after having being widely dispersed in the air by the breaking of the carrier shell.

There were also some nice colour-changing "go-getter" type of self propelled stars.

The use of brilliant yellow and orange ball stars really stuck in my memory as being of a particularly good quality. Also good was the use of crossette type stars - stars which break into several smaller stars at the end of their burn.

The finale was enjoyable with plenty of large titanium salutes, though not as many or as much noise as the US show! Overall, it was a very enjoyable display.


Spain -- June 25, 1995; Sunday

I didn't see this show unfortunately.


Germany -- July 5, 1995; Wednesday

Overall, this was a somewhat disappointing show - mainly because there seemed to be less shells used than other displays. However, that said, there were some interesting segements to the display and some unusual effects.

The one effect which stands out was the use of shells which contained rings of tourbillons - some containing double rings. Inside the ring of tourbillons were bunches of bright gold stars. The effect produced was that of an expanding scallop shell, filled with pearls, the white sparks from the tourbillons giving the impression of the "groves" of the shell as they expanded outwards. This effect was used several times in the display and was very effective.

Another memorable effect was the use of comets which, when fired from the ground, produced extremely long glittery tails with a very loud crackling noise.

Also good was the use of firefly type star shells - something which I remember Germany using to good effect in previous competitions.

There were also a few "shell of shells" type shells, which are always popular with the audience.

One thing I found unusual (inasmuch as I haven't seen it used before) was the use of charcoal type stars in mines - this producing the nice effect of a row of small palm trees.

Extensive use was made of shaped burst shells, with mainly single rings. However, some other less regular shapes were produced but I couldn't discern what they were from my vantage point. In common with the USA, one segment had the air filled with butterfly shaped bursts.

One final thing to note was the use of pink stars - at least, they appeared pink to me - it was certainly a colour I don't remember seeing before.

The finale was disappointing in that it was quite short.

A display with some interesting effects, but too few shells and too short a finale in my opinion


Argentina -- July 8, 1995; Sunday

I was not in a good viewing position to make a full report on this show.

However, I could see that, in common with many of the shows this year, a lot of very large comets were fired, some which made a very loud crackling noise.

From what I could see, the finale was pretty dramatic with a lot of salutes fired.

It was a pity I couldn't see more since I'm sure this report doesn't do the show justice. However, from what I could see, I don't think Argentian will make the awards this year.


Holland -- July 12, 1995; Wednesday

This was an excellent display with some novel effects. The overall co-ordination of the display was very good and it was thoroughly enjoyed by the crowd.

The most unusual effect was produced during the firing of a volley of many shells. One particularly large shell exploded, producing extremely bright stars - nothing unusual in that except that the stars were many many times larger than "normal" stars and appeared to produce flaming fireballs in the sky. At the end of the volley, there remained a line of stars on parachutes - slowly descending to the ground.

Some other unusual shells were spherical ball-star type shells, except one half of the hemisphere had stars of one colour, and the other another.

Shaped-burst shells were taken to a new height with the production of an effect which can best be described as the planet saturn! A large spherical core of small(ish) stars was surrounded by a discrete, bright ring of stars. At one point, the sky appeared to be filled with planets!

A dramatic crowd-pleaser was produced by a large number of rockets fired in a very close cluster rising extremely rapidly and all exploding at different heights - the effect producing what appeared to be a large bunch of flowers in the air.

Another dramatic moment was the firing of a line of very large mines containing the brightest stars I have ever seen - so bright and fired so high that the crowd gasped in amazement.

The finale was also spectacular and contained many of the effects I have just described, includind some shaped-burst shells which produced large hearts in the sky. The finale concluded to a thunderous volley of large titanium salutes.

Overall, this was an excellent display and Holland must be in with a very good chance of picking up one of the Jupiter awards this year.


Canada -- July 16, 1995; Sunday

Due to torrential rain, I didn't attend this show.


Italy -- July 19, 1995; Wednesday

This was an excellent display with some novel effects.

One thing that stood out was the use of a lot of fountains/gerbs (what _is_ the difference between the two?). It appeared that every possible fountain material was used, from the red of charcoal to the bright white of magnesium (or probably titanium). Some of the largest fountains I have every seen were used - the sparks must have risen to a good 80-100 feet.

Almost every display this year seemed to use tourbillons. Italy continued this theme but extended it by using every imaginable type of tourbillon, from red-sparked moderately spinning charcoal types, to fast, white sparked salute termination types.

Since the theme of the display seemed to be film music, one very nice segment was played out to the theme of James Bond movies. A gun, traced out in lancework, fired large white star "bullets" at a target, also traced out in lancework. This really pleased the crowd!

There were some unusual shells used. After shell burst, the stars appeared dark for a few seconds before the ignited, quite a distance from the break of the shell. I guess this is similar to the other delayed ignition technique which was used extensively by the Italiens. This is where a very large shell bursts and ejects several, or many, smaller shells. Sometimes these smaller shells whould explode in a close sequence, giving the effect of many shells fired very close together in time. Othertimes, the smaller shells would all explode simultaneously and their stars would cross each other's paths producing the effect of a mesh of star trails.

Some shells with very bright yellow stars were used - yellow being quite a popular colour this year.

Yet another interesting type of shell was used in which the burst charge must have been laced with titanium since the bursting of the shell gave the appearance of a large titanium salute in the centre - these were very big shells and the burst charge could be felt as well as heard!

In an earlier report, I mentioned that France used an effect where several large spining rising things lifted off from the ground and ascended on a wide column of sparks. Well, Italy used the same technique but extended it somewhat. I counted ten devices rising on their column of sparks. However, when the devices reached the apex of their ascent, they dramatically burst into a large number of colour stars.

The finale was excellent, with noise makers and spinning devices of every type imaginable including a segment where a vast number of whistles hurtled skywards at enormous speed. The end of the finale was thunderous, with an enormous number of very large salutes.

Overall, this was an excellent display and must be in contention for an award.


Industria Panzera (La Ronde) -- July 23, 1995; Sunday

Torrential rain threatened to spoil the finale of the 1995 Benson and Hedges International Fireworks competition at La Ronde, Montreal. However, Giovani Panzera, the competition organizer and technical director of La Ronde's own display company claimed to have spent the day praying to Rome for the rain to stop. Whether it was divine intervention of not, the rain did indeed stop and the clouds rolled away for the awards of this years competition.

The display by Panzera then followed and was in typical Panzera style (see my last two years reports!) combining the best of all the year's competition.

Hence there were a lot of very large comets, a lot of shells with bright yellow stars; tourbillons of many types, including shells similar to those used by Germany producing the "scallop shell" effect.

Panzera's favourite shells seems to be the multiburst and shell-of-shells types, especially the latter, both with simultaneous bursting of the smaller shells and sequention bursting.

The finale, to the music of Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, was as dramatic as I have come to expect. Vast numbers of salutes were used, including some extremely large ones. This was a fitting climax to another enjoyable year's competition.