8:30 p.m. update: We’ve just taken the final walk through the fire works racks with crew chief Keith Sugden. The weather couldn’t be more perfect: a clearing sky at sundown, soaked in dusks’ orange and light blues as we wait for total darkness. Rain? What rain?
This is our last update. We’ll have a story from behind the scenes with Sugden as he sets off the fireworks tonight, just a short distance from the racks, with images and video to follow.
At 7:30 p.m., the park was already filling up an hour ago, the atmosphere is all picnic, all celebration all the way, and the rains of the last 24 hours are as distant as they’re irrelevant right now. “The closest rain is in southern Volusia County,” Bob Pickering of Flagler County’s emergency services tells us. “Right now, no weather, rain or anything like that aimed at us.” Not only is the show on. It’s well under way: the fireworks are merely the payoff at 9 p.m.
A traffic update: Town Center Boulevard is at a crawl, all parking spots full going several hundred feet either way from Central Park. Bulldog Drive has filled up about halfway down to the high school.
Fresh photos are posted below.
Last night it was Flagler Beach. Tonight Palm Coast will do it all over again, taking on the weather furies come rain or thunder. Short of a cataclysmic weather event, the city’s first fireworks show will ignite at 9 p.m. sharp in Town Center’s Central Park, culminating a two-hour tailgate party where drinking, grilling and carousing is allowed.
“Everything is set,” says Dave Ayers, general manager at WNZF and Beach 92.7 FM. (WNZF put up $3,000 of the $13,000 or so needed for the party.) “These are the big dogs. They’re going to go 1,000 feet in the air. The shells are the size of soccer balls, so people are going to be be able to see them far and wide.” The FM station is be broadcasting live from a big tent at the park and encouraging all sorts of celebrations and revelries.
It is a beach party after all, with music and a lake to churn up the feel of a surf.
The event isn’t being put on by Palm Coast itself, but by the Flagler County Rotary. And the Rotary is really just a front–the mechanism used to raise funds to enable the party, which was the brainchild, or at least the marketing child, of the co-owned WNZF and Beach 92.7 FM, the radio stations that put on that Rock-n-Rib Fest on April 10 in the same place.
That event went off so well, including a rousing fireworks show at the end, that the stations wanted a follow-up. The city council declined to sponsor that one (at least this year: it’s open to possibilities next year). So the stations turned to the Rotary to be its fund-raising pipeline, and eight local businesses, including the Palm Coast Observer and Florida Hospital Flagler, and — brace yourself — the Flagler County Tea Party, contributed.
Rolando Casis, President of the Philippine-American Association, Speaking at Palm Coast’s July 4th Ceremony (Courtesy of WNZF)[media id=74 width=250 height=100]
The Tea party folks not only contributed $500. By early afternoon, when the park was deserted except for five teenagers whiling away the clouds, the tea-partiers had already staked out their own stretch of squishy grass with yellow tape. There’s real July 4th self-segregation for you: don’t tread on their bit of grass now.
“We helped sponsor the fireworks and they told us we could block up a portion of the grass so we could put up our tent,” Tom Lawrence, the Flagler Tea Party leader, said this afternoon. By the time everyone shows up for the show the tent will be put up and the tape will be gone, he said. (The tape was very much there at 7:30, with the party in full swing, though you could say this much for the tea party ghetto: it was full up.)
Weather furies and ground-level absurdities aside, the fireworks will go off even if it rains. The only serious threat, and there’s not much of it in the forecast, is severe wind or lightning. But some thundershowers may add to the noise in passing.
Video: Behind the Scenes at Tonight’s Fireworks With Jerry Dimura[media id=73 width=250 height=250]
By mid-afternoon, Fireworks By Santore’s crew–the company headed by Ralph Santore, who produced the Flagler Beach fireworks–was done racking the cannons and arming them with those bulbous shells, each of which, depending on its size, looks oddly shaped like an oversize brown onion, sprouting wires that tangle back to relay boxes that then connect to the command center, where they’re set off, some 100 feet away.
Expect a 13-minute show or so, says Keith Sugden, who was today’s crew chief in the tall grasses of Town Center, well beyond the fountain and the park. As they worked–Sugden was assisted by Jerry Dimura, Curtis Lentz, Matt Reddish, Brittney Kowalchick and Chelsea Lentz), a crown of dark clouds formed and hovered above, not unlike those nasty-looking alien ships in “Independence Day.” But like those ships’ fate in the movie, it looks like the fireworks crew will find the cloud’s vulnerable spot and fire off through a window of opportunity, as they did in Flagler Beach Saturday evening.
Bring coolers. Bring grills. Bring food. Bring games. Just don’t bring blankets. For updates on tonight’s festivities, you can tune in to 92.7 FM or keep up with matters of last minute at FlaglerLive.
[This story will update as warranted throughout the evening.]