One of the aspects which makes this event so special is all of the displays are produced by hobbyists. Many display companies offer their equipment and deliver product to the event, but the displays themselves are funded by the shooters themselves (or a group of shooters pulling their funds together) and setup by volunteers from the pyrotechnic hobbyist community.
Written by Tim Jameson Photohraphy Night shots by Bill & Sue Cassidy, from www.teacherswithcameras.com
And the daytime photos by Lacy Onkst
Before we talk about the 2014 event, I would like to give a little background history on the event for those who have never heard of or attended the event. Back in late winter 2009, a group of hobbyists were “chatting” on a fireworks forum called Pyro Universe and decided to put together the first club shoot in Maryland’s history. Maryland is not the most pyro-friendly state in the U.S. The ‘Northern Lights Pyrotechnics Club’ got involved and offered the use of their insurance in order to move forward with the event. Club members Tim Jameson and Brett Hallden began communications with the Maryland Bomb Squad and Local Authorities in order to secure all the proper permits and work out any potential issues such as storage, transportation, etc. April 2009 marked the inaugural event with 18 fireworks hobbyists gathering at the Jameson farm in Hughesville, MD to enjoy their hobby legally. The following four years, the event was held twice a year, once in April and again in November while continuing to get larger at each event. By 2013, the event had grown so big that hobbyist travelled from many states in the Eastern half of the country to take part. Public attendance for viewing the displays also grew too large to continue holding the event at the Jameson farm. A victim of its own success, M.A.F.F. had grown too large to continue being held twice a year so the decision was made to begin holding the event annually each April and it was moved to Wolfe Farm in Charlotte Hall, MD. The owner of the property, Nancy Wolfe, is the president of the local Riverview Grange and other charitable organizations. An agreement was put into place to allow M.A.F.F. to use her beautiful 800 acre farm on the waters of the Potomac River in order to charge a parking fee, which the Grange distributed among local charities.
2014 was probably the best M.A.F.F. event to date with seven pyro musical displays fired, as well as a special “Mass Launch” of crackling effects, in addition ‘filler’ segments were fired between displays showcasing some of the finest American made product available.
Before the displays began, a group of trainees hand-fired shells as part of their Shooter Training Class put on by Mike Huber. Mike does a great job of working with newer shooters on the safety and mechanical aspects of hand-firing. The hand-firing is done during the dusk hours to help ensure everyone’s safety and to get the crowd ‘in the mood’ for the displays to follow.
The first display of the evening was the National Anthem display produced and fired by Chad Culp. It was a beautiful display to open the evening which began with red, white, and blue wind bells and culminated with a thunderous finale all the while paying tribute to our nation’s song. The display was fired with the ‘StarFire’ firing system utilizing 366 cues.
The second display of the evening was a special tribute to one of our member’s grandfather. The story behind the display is very touching. In April 2013, Corey Wilmer wanted to shoot a display in dedication of his grandfather who had fallen ill. Corey is an outstanding young talent at age 20 and his grandfather had always loved Corey’s enthusiasm when it came to fireworks. Unfortunately, Corey’s display had some technical difficulties and could not be fired that night. Instead of giving up, Corey was determined to pay homage to his grandfather, who had now passed away. It was a heartwarming moment when Corey was finally able to fire the show this past weekend, doing a wonderful job. We are sure his grandfather was looking down on the event full of pride. Corey’s display was fired with the ‘StarFire’ firing system utilising approximately 300 cues.
The third display of the evening was produced by Vinny Mazza and ‘Intergalactic Fireworks.’ ‘Intergalactic’ is a consumer retail/wholesale outlet who has been a large supporter of M.A.F.F. from its early days. Vinny did a wonderful job choreographing his display which was different in theme versus the heavy hitting displays one comes to expect at events such as M.A.F.F. The display was very graceful, showcasing some wonderful consumer product mixed with some beautiful 1.3 shells. The scenes put together matched very well and the music chosen worked very well together. The show was fired by the Cobra Firing System utilising 188 cues.
The fourth display of the evening was produced by a pair of hobbyists from New York, Joe Russo and Joe Conaty. The display, while short, showcased the talents of this pair. Never before have I seen such a wonderful display fired with only 200 cues. The display, entirely of consumer product which had been manipulated to change timings and shot patterns to produce the desired effects, held its own against the larger 1.3 displays of the night very well. It is amazing how hard work and effort can make ordinary consumer product look so good. The display was fired with the ‘StarFire’ firing system utilizing only eight modules and just over 200 cues.
Following the fourth display of the evening was a special mass launch of crackling effect. Members of the hobbyist community pulled together to sponsor what is called a “mass launch”. Ken Garafalo headed up the effort and 37 cases of product were donated to the launch. For two minutes, the sky rumbled with crackle in an amazing single effect display. The mass launch was fired using an ODA capacitive discharge system capable of firing over 250 e-matches in a single cue.
The fifth display of the evening was produced by me and my business partner Mike Gray. The theme of the display was a tribute to the heavy metal band Motley Crue which is a favorite of the local crowd. It was a hard hitting display with a mix of consumer product, 1.3 commercial product with lots of single shots and more than its share of ground salutes. A fire took out the main trunk line to the shells wired for the shows finale but it was repaired later in the evening so the high energy finale could still be enjoyed at the end of the night. The display was fired with the ‘StarFire’ firing system utilizing 1347 cues and almost 1600 e-matches.
The sixth display of the evening was another “come back” story. Dane Crncic had originally planned to fire this display in 2013, but things didn’t work out as planned so he brought his plan back in 2014 and it was well worth the wait. With a theme based around rock and roll legends Queen, Dane put on a wonderful display mixing in single shots, girandolas, and beautiful shells to create a wonderful display. The display was fired with the ‘Cobra’ firing system utilizing 850 cues.
The final display of the evening was produced by a team of hobbyists including Joe Carpenzano, Peter Day, Peter Cobz, and Dave Mangiotti. It was a fun display in which each member donated their own segment to the show, scripting their segment and providing the product. It was a nice mix showing each of their individual styles. Brett Hallden worked with the group to produce the firing script and fired the display using his ‘Pyromate Smartfire’ firing system utilizing approximately 1000 cues.
In between each display, to take up time while systems were changed out and fires dealt with, Martin Weinig and Colin McLaughlin manually fired American made shells showcasing large bore mines (4” and larger) along with shells up to 10” in diameter. It was a great addition to the event, giving the crowd (and the rest of the pyro group) something to watch between shows. They used the ‘StarFire’ firing system to fire the displays in “step mode” so several sequences could be pre-programmed and then fired as individual events.
What more is there to say? Seven pyro musical displays, a mass launch, American made product… what more could one ask for on a single night. For information about the Mid-Atlantic Fireworks Festival, we can be found on-line at www.maff.ws