Massive fireworks display to light up the sky in Saint John

It's going to be big, bright and loud. Organizers of Thursday night's massive fireworks display, say it could be the biggest ever seen in the province.

'The biggest in New Brunswick,' says pyro expert in charge of the show

Nautical fireworks are set, ready to explode over Saint John's harbour Thursday night. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

The skies above Saint John are going to come alive Thursday night, as hundreds of explosions will light up the harbour in a celebration of the city's heritage, all thanks to three of its oldest companies.

On Wednesday afternoon, pyrotechnician Peter Graham was struggling to control his glee as preparations for the massive fireworks display were made.

Lasting more than twenty minutes, the show will be "the biggest in New Brunswick," Graham boasted.

Even after decades in the fireworks business, Graham still hasn't seen it all.

Pyrotechnician Peter Graham says he'll be using fireworks he's never seen before. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)
"I am excited, they're relatively new," he said, referring to several tubes of nautical fireworks aimed over the edge of the wharf.

"We've only had them about three years and the ones we're shooting here on Thursday night, I have never personally seen before."

Celebrating 3 iconic Saint John companies

Three Saint John companies are footing the bill for the epic fireworks display.

Moosehead, Source Atlantic, and G.E. Barbour are each 150 years old this year and each chipped in.

"It's a gift to the City of Saint John, the people of Saint John for their support," Graham said. "We want everybody to leave and say, 'Wow.' If we can do that, then we've pushed all the buttons on their chest and we'll feel good."

If the fireworks don't impress people, the finale likely will.

Graham said in that alone, there will be about 2,450 visual impressions.

The fireworks team packs sand around the firing tubes for Thursday's show. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)
Hundreds of colourful tubes, embedded in sand and in some cases barrels, are being arranged on Long Wharf.

The fireworks display is scheduled for around 9:30 p.m., and while everything is coming together, it hasn't been easy.

Fireworks shortage

A deadly accident at a Chinese fireworks factory last March has created a worldwide shortage.

The issue has been compounded by a hungry U.S. market, not to mention increased demand for Canada 150 celebrations.

"I've called in a lot of favours," Graham said. "If I didn't know everybody it would be even bigger."

It's being put on by Moosehead Breweries, G.E. Barbour and Source Atlantic, three companies celebrating 150 years in business this year. Peter Graham is with Graham Fireworks. 7:13
Normally Graham would source all of his explosives from one company in one shipment.

This time Graham has had to get four shipments from two separate suppliers.

Just to add a little last-minute drama, Graham had to work the phones to make sure the final shipment arrived in time.

Stress aside, while overseeing a crew of workers packing sand around firing tubes, Graham still had a smile on his face.

The Thursday night display will finish off with months of careful planning.

Organizers are telling people to stay well away from the launch area, behind the safety perimeter, because of the explosive power of the extra-large shells. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)
While five members of his team run about lighting fireworks by hand, Graham will be behind a concrete barricade handling the electrical fuses.

"Rain won't stop us" he said with a smile, "hopefully to God, there's no fog."

Organizers are asking spectators to stay well away from the launch area on Long Wharf. 

In a safety notification sent out Wednesday evening, they said because of the explosive power of the extra-large shells being used, the show will be halted if spectators get too close to the launch area.

There will be a security perimeter marked by yellow police tape.

Also, anyone wishing to watch the show from a boat in the harbour must stay at least 500 metres away from Long Wharf.