LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – It's Riverfest tradition for the La Crosse Skyrockers to put on their annual firework show on the Fourth of July.
While thousands of people gather in Riverside Park to watch the show, the magic happens across the river, in Pettibone Park.
Preparation for the $18,000-19,000 show started as early as 8:30 a.m. Thursday, said Pat Bonadurer, chief of the La Crosse Skyrockers. The show is sponsored by the La Crosse Jaycees.
It's a show that literally builds from the ground up. With more than 400 fireworks going into the air, Skyrockers are making sure steel tubes are low in the ground.
"When an explosion happens next to steel it can fragment and shrapnel would come out. That is something we do not want happening around any people and so we keep everyone far away when we do our shoots," said Jonathan Vermes, director of public relations for the Skyrockers.
"In addition, to further alleviate that risk, we have it buried underground so it has nowhere to go," he added.
Vermes said with programming and wiring, show prep may go very close to their 10 p.m. launch.
"You see those special effects on a firework where you see a big color come out, but then you also see something else coming out along the sides streaming down, these are the pieces that you're seeing," he said, pointing to a firework being loaded.
It's not easy work, but the Skyrockers say it's worth it.
"We hear the roar from the crowd across the river. We take our ear protection off and we just hear the clapping and just the applause. It's so nice to hear that," Bonadurer said.
New this year, Vermes said the Skyrockers are actually choreographing the fireworks to the music that plays during the show.
While the launchers are practicing their cues, they couldn't practice with the actual fireworks until the show Thursday night.
The firework show starts at 10 p.m.