Fireworks Road Trip Written and Photography by Tobias Brevé and Robin Harteveld

Fireworks Road Trip Written and Photography by Tobias Brevé and Robin Harteveld

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JGW

Being firework fans the summer of 2013 was a dream come true. We made it our goal to visit as many fireworks festivals and shows as possible in one month. When the time came we loaded our car with some unusual gear for a holiday which included 3 camera’s, multiple lenses and some tripods. We were ready and prepared for some fireworks!
The first stop on our tour was Geel, Belgium. Every year this mid-sized town organizes the ‘Geelse Kanaal feesten’, which is basically a large party based around the canal with a lot of music, sporting activities, barbecues, drinking and other festivities. And of course fireworks, every successful party has to finish with fireworks. The show was fired by the company ‘Big Smile Fireworks’ and it is very much their trademark to build a great show out of consumer fireworks. We were delighted to be asked to participate and be part of the set-up crew.
The show was a huge success with a width of over 100 meters featuring the stepper sequences of a special cake: the Mjölner. Unfortunately for us there was no after show party, because after cleaning up we jumped into the car and drove towards our next stop: Pamplona!

 

After a few hours of driving we were exhausted so we stopped at a gas station for a short nap. We had underestimated the distance literally driving through the night, but finally, at 6 p.m. we arrived. Everybody was dressed in white and red because of the San Fermin festival. We didn’t have much time to relax because we had to rush into the city for the first fireworks display. There was an atmosphere, a real buzz throughout the whole city. Everybody gathered on the field around the Fortress Walls of Pamplona where the fireworks were to be shot, there were rumour’s about where this was to happen and the best places to view, but the information we got was correct, and we saw some great shows during the week!
As luck would have it, we were told we could go inside the fortress and check out the firing site for two of the days. One of the companies we visited was Pirotecnia Vulcano. We were welcomed by José Luis who explained the idea behind the show and the set up. At night, the show definitely lived up to our expectations because of the wonderful themes, bright colors, vivid single shot and chase sequences and some perfect timing.

The other company we visited was Pirotecnia Hermanos Caballer. They too were also very friendly and showed us all the large calibers shells and explained the story they wanted to depict. This was also an amazing show with a nice opening theme and a lot of chase sequences and raw, aggressive whistlers!

JGW

The fireworks during this week were amazing, but we also checked out the main event of San Fermin; the running with the bulls! Every morning at 8 A.M. the bulls are released and start running through the streets towards the Arena. The starting signal for the participants of the run is a rocket with a loud burst, the second rocket gives the starting signal for the massive bulls. If the bulls arrive in the arena called Plaza de Toros de Pamplona a lot of daredevils ‘play’ with the bulls before they enter their barn. We thought it was amazing to see this famous activity for real! Unfortunately almost all the pictures taken in Pamplona are lost because of a stolen laptop. The week went by very fast but we didn’t hesitate to leave for a second because we couldn’t wait for our next stop: Cangas del Narcea!

After a long ride through the north of Spain we arrived in Cangas del Narcea. Here we met our Dutch firework friends: Tony Gemmink, Patrick Oey and Stefan Drukker. Together we had the most incredible three days of our trip. Cangas del Narcea is a very small town with a huge rocket festival. We were warmly welcomed by José Manuel Fernandez Gonzales from the peña El Siempre Arbolin. We shared a few beers and then went to look at the shooting area. When we descended the stairs we saw something we had never seen before: super rockets everywhere! One of the peña’s started the festivities (the Pregunto de las Fiestas) by shooting rockets out of their hands. During the evening there were many more ‘tiradas a mano’ and we also saw our first spectacular rocket show from a little further away up a hill . This gave an amazing view over the town.
The next day there were more ‘tiradas de manos’ by the different peñas in town and in the evening multiple firework displays. In the afternoon we went uphill to the pavilion of the peña Siempre Arbolin. Here they kept their own storage of rockets, which they shoot into the valley later in the evening. In the evening we had a beautiful view over all the fireworks displays. There were 4 firework displays spread over multiple places at the same time.

A beautiful theme shot by Pirotechnia Vulcano
There was even one 10 meters behind us! It was a fantastic night with a lot of fireworks and partying, but we were all looking forward to the next day: La Descarga!
The day started with the ‘tirada de la mañana’, which means shooting rockets by hand from different peñas. We noticed that the rockets were getting bigger by the day. Next on the agenda was the ‘tirada de puente’. This was a short display of many huge rockets shot from the bridge and they were very loud. After this, was the moment we all waited for, La Descarga! This is the moment the Maria statue carried by the citizens passes a bell on the middle of the historic bridge. This event is the starting signal for a rocket show unlike anything we have experienced before. Experiencing 30,000 HUGE and extremely loud rockets was a fantastic experience (see VIDEO and FOTO)! Everybody was very emotional because this is the moment that the whole festival is based around. This was a day of partying which of course continued into the evening, when there was even more fireworks. The peña of the women also had their moment to shoot rockets by hand, and afterwards there were three more firework displays, at which we could stand in the shooting area. This day was the perfect closedown of a festival with a huge climax. Cangas del Narcea was an amazing experience for us and we will definitely come back!
Exhausted from an amazing few days we once again loaded the car and made our way to our next adventure: El Focs de Blanes. Unfortunately we miscalculated the distance between Cangas del Narcea and Blanes ever so slightly, realizing we had to drive from one side of Spain to the other. So too tired to drive we decided to stop after a few hours of your journey in Burgos.
The next morning, after a good sleep, now all fit and excited we drove towards Blanes. Before the fireworks festival begun we had a few quiet days at the beach. However, we weren’t bored as Blanes and surroundings areas are beautiful, if you look a little bit further afield than the young people partying. After a few nights we went to the correfocs of Lloret de Mar. Its been a while since we attended one, a correfocs is a form of medieval street theatre called ‘Ball de Diables’, representing the fight of good against evil, and often involving pyrotechnics, is always an amazing experience especially if you can walk amongst the participants.

Then finally the day finally arrived the start of the fireworks festival! Unfortunately we couldn’t visit the shooting area because of strict policies, but we had a pretty good view from the beach. Every day we checked the set-up, went for a few cocktails and then waited on the beach packed with a delicious ‘bocadillo’, ‘allioli’ and a good rioja wine.
One of the shows was shot again by Pirotecnia Vulcano and in our eyes they should have won this competition. It was a beautiful show and they made perfect use of the site, a lot of single shot sequences and a killer finale. They also showed their unique sad/smile face shells again. After 4 nights of amazing fireworks there was the final event of the festival: the correfocs of Blanes. It was nice to see the same participants as in Lloret and they made a big party out of it again. Through small alleys and through boulevards crowded with young tourists, everybody got dragged into the parade. After some amazing days and a lot of laughter with our friends from the Netherlands the Blanes adventure finally came to an end.

It was time to switch countries for the last parts of our holiday, so from the buzzing atmosphere in Blanes we went to the chique culture of Cannes, where we would stay for just a few days. The organizers of the fireworks event in Cannes were very nice and let us into the VIP area for photographs and to film. Here we had some nice chats with the organizers and we also met some people we already knew from the festivals in Spain. Cannes is a beautiful location for a fireworks display with the large beach and luxurious outlooks. The set up and idea behind the show were very good, however a big fire started on one of the pontoons very soon into the show. As a result the show was not a big success. After the show we went back to the camp site, but unfortunately there was an awful smell coming from the river next to us and there was a mosquito plague so we decided to move on to our next stop very quickly!

JGW

The last stop of our fireworks-trip was Annecy (France). If not for the huge firework display, you should definitely visit the area for the beautiful surroundings. We had already bought tickets for the display a few months previously, but once we arrived we stated to doubt if we had bought tickets for the right area. We decided to buy extra tickets and we were happy we did, because we chose option two (the cheapest) and we had an amazing view. The firework spectacle in Annecy is very different from regular displays because it is spectacular 70 minute display based on a musical theme. This summer the theme was Les Feux de L´ Arc-en-Ciel, a rainbow theme! This was amazing because of the bright and cheerful colors. The music was beautiful and the show was immense with a massive 300 meter front!. It is so beautiful to experience because it is completely different from what we’re used to, it is more ‘quiet’ but oh so beautiful . The stunning rainbow theme shot by Groupe Luso.

After 5 weeks, 7000 kilometers, 7 countries, 28 firework festivities and having taken thousands of photographs, we concluded that our holiday had been a huge success and we would definitely be repeating it! It’s always a pity when holidays are over and reality kicks in, but we could already start looking forward to the end of August and the fireworks festival of Knokke-Heist (Belgium)!

Now we are already planning our next huge fireworks trip through Italy/Malta in the summer of 2014.