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Fire Power: The man behind San Diego’s Big Bay Boom

The annual 4th of July San Diego extravaganza Big Bay Boom is assembled by Sam Bruggema.
Photo credit:
bigbayboom.com

San Diego has one of the best Fourth of July fireworks displays in the country, ranked third by Yahoo. 

The massive display is set upon the bay by Pyro Spectaculars by Souza, at four different detonation stations each perfectly choreographed to a pre-determined soundtrack.

The ignition of these colorful bombs is crucial not only to the display, but the safety of the team igniting them.

Sam Bruggema is the show producer and pyrotechnician behind Big Bay Boom, and he talked to San Diego Gay and Lesbian News about the process that goes into giving spectators a sky full of light. 

Bruggema grew up in El Cajon and was inspired by a neighbor who created an annual display on the residential street, “As a small boy my best friend's dad did the Fourth of July show in my neighborhood,” he said. “Been hooked ever since.”

Far from the impromptu schedule of a childhood block party, Bruggema says that San Diego’s display has him planning as early as November.

He is also the one who is responsible for each of the designs that you see during the combustive spectacle, something that is a little bit more than color-technics.

“On the displays that are synchronized to music, I select the specific effects to match the moods and theme,” he said.

He also says that the difference between Big Bay and other shows he works on is that the spectators span for miles in every direction, “the audience is all around us!​” 

With such an enormous task to do on-the-spot, not everything can go as expected such as the big fizzle in 2012, when Big Bay became Big Bust.

Bruggema says that his company was not responsible for that mishap, but it certainly put a damper on things.

I asked if he knew what went wrong with their display. He says it was all in the organization of their timed cues and programming.

“They failed in their file download,” he explains. “File had no times on the script, (it) got the signal and all went at once.”

This year whether you're sitting among the thousands of spectators from Shelter Island to the Southern Embarcadero, or just watching from the comfort of your own home, remember that Sam Bruggema has been working on the massive display that is Big Bay Boom for about nine months, and what your seeing is the birth of his enormous figurative child that only has an 18-minute lifespan.

Bruggema is being tight-lipped about 2016's showcase, and when asked if he had anything special planned for the skies this year, he said, "It's a surprise."

San Diego's Big Bay Boom will take place on Monday, July 4, at 9 pm. 

For more information click HERE.