Love at first light for local ‘professional pyro’ SanTan Sun News

Love at first light for local ‘professional pyro’

July 4th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Love at first light for local ‘professional pyro’
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By Tom Scanlon
Staff Writer

When the dark sky snaps to life over Tumbleweed Park and fireworks go off in fiery trails with squeaky sounds before the inevitable “BOOM” tonight, some will say “oooh” and others “aaaah.”

Kendon Victor will say: “Who wants some more?”

Victor is a longtime employee of Fireworks Productions of Arizona, a Chandler pyrotechnics powerhouse that has been as busy as Santa Claus during Christmas.

“The week of the 4th, we’ll do 81 fireworks displays,” Victor said. “We’ve got 22 shows scheduled for the 3rd, 48 displays on the 4th.”

His company will put on the sky show for fireworks community celebrations in Gilbert, Apache Junction, Scottsdale – and tonight’s big show in Chandler.

For the second consecutive year, Chandler’s annual Red, White and Boom! July 4 Spectacular at Tumbleweed Park is still under COVID-19 restrictions – meaning spectators must stay in or near their vehicles and while admission is free, it costs $5 for a parking pass.

Space is limited and people are encouraged to get their parking pass online at chandleraz.gov/4thofjuly.

Gates to parking lots will open at 7 p.m. and the 20-minute fireworks display will start at 9 p.m. Light snacks and (non-alcoholic) beverages will be available to purchase onsite.

Walk-ins and bicyclists will be permitted as space allows.

Guests may bring their own food, snack, and non-alcoholic drinks, but tailgating, grilling, alcohol, marijuana, personal fireworks and sparklers are not permitted.

All vehicles must be able to fit into a single parking spot so RVs and oversized vehicles are not permitted.

Ask Victor how a young person can get into his line of business and you’ll get the kind of answer to be expected from someone who has three first names (his first name comes from his grandfathers’ names, slammed together).

“Don’t, would be my recommendation,” he said.

“The truth is, there is no career path to this. How this works is most people involved knew somebody who did this. They got invited in, and decide, ‘This is fun, I want to continue to do this.

“You do it out of the love. We give you a flare and explosives and say, ‘You get to light that on fire and blow it up.’”

Victor was 19 when his best friend married into a fireworks company.

His friend invited him to try his hand with the professional-grade goods.

It was love at first light.

Victor still remembers what he thought, the first time he set off the big boomers:

“Oh, this rocks …”

Not that this line of work involved any kind of philosophical change.

“I’ve always liked setting things on fire,” Victor said.

“I spent a long time without eyebrows as a kid.”

Thirty years after getting his start as a professional pyro, he is one of the lucky ones.

“Most of our people (in fireworks) have real jobs and do this on the side. But the company I worked for got bought out by a California company, and my boss said, ‘How’d you like to come into this full time?’”

For most, he said, “At best it’s a glorified hobby.

If you’re in it for the pay, you’re in the wrong place.”

While the firecrackers themselves don’t change much over the years, Victor said he wants to make every Independence Day celebration different.

“I take a lot of time planning out the body of the show, planning out what should be in the grand finale.”

He’s been shooting off the fireworks show in Mesa for seven years, first at the Mesa Amphitheater before the show moved to the Fiesta Mall last year and this weekend.

He wouldn’t give away any secrets about the show here July 3, other than to make a big promise:

“The best way I can describe it is: something amazing and spectacular.”

Victor has been shooting fireworks for 30 years, during the big 4th celebrations, weddings, corporate events, high school graduations, homecomings and sporting events.

He enjoys putting new spins on something that’s been around for hundreds of years.

“According to historical data, fireworks were created by the Chinese,” Victor noted. “They accidentally created fireworks when they lit gunpowder on fire, then they thought, ‘Wow, this is cool.’

“Originally, they set off fireworks to chase away demons and devils.”

Does it work?

“Never chased away any of mine.”

Ka-boom.

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