Behind the scenes with the fireworks experts at 5-day, 5-country GlobalFest celebration

The annual festival of light and culture starts Thursday, this year featuring the talents of pyrotechnics teams from Ukraine, Spain, Philippines, China and Canada.

'Don’t just see one, because then you have nothing to compare it to'

Behind the scenes at GlobalFest

5 years ago
Duration 3:16
Featured VideoBehind the scenes at GlobalFest

He got into it a quarter century ago and not by design.

"I started 25 years ago accidentally. It's all I have ever done," Kelly Guille of Sirius Pyrotechnics told CBC News.

He's the fireworks crew chief for GlobalFest.

"It is not an easy industry to get into. Some people take the federal course and they are super excited to do it, and then they realize, I am only guaranteed employment two days a year for prep for July 1. Most people in Canada who have licences do it as well as their [other] job. It's most often owners and their right hands that are full time and then a crew of a ton of people when you need them."

The annual festival of light and culture starts Thursday, this year featuring the talents of pyrotechnics teams from Ukraine, Spain, the Philippines, China and Canada.

Kelly Guille of Sirius Pyrotechnics is the fireworks crew chief for GlobalFest 2018. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

"The teams are chosen because they have proven their ability in their home countries or other competitions to put on a great show," Guille said.

"The way a designer makes a good show is knowing his product. It's knowing what type of effect you want, and the colour combination with what it does, in order to pull a certain emotion out of the audience, and match it with the music. When you can combine all of those things into a scene with the music, that is when you are going to have a quality show."

And the idea for that quality show goes back 25 years, the festival's producer says.

"It was an idea we hatched in 1993. We didn't have a venue in Calgary to do the kinds of show we were looking for," Ken Goosen said.

"We wanted to do fireworks and we wanted to provide for Calgarians and Albertans that they weren't able to see."

Ken Goosen is one of the founders of GlobalFest, which started as an idea in 1993. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

Goosen says the venue makes it all possible.

"We can shoot fireworks up to 1,000 feet into the air, and it's only in large venues like Elliston Park where you can do that."

Smoke makes show brighter, but not as clear

The smoke from B.C. wildfires that is covering southern Alberta right now, however, has a couple of impacts on the fireworks, Goosen says.

"From a fireworks perspective, it actually makes the show brighter in that there is a lot more particulate matter in the sky and that becomes reflective surface for the fireworks star effects, but it does cloud it out a little bit," he said.

"So it is brighter but it's not necessarily as clear."

A fireworks display from GlobalFest 2015. (Nathalie Terekhova, J&J Lawrence Photography for Globalfest

Dmytro Kuchugura of the Ukrainian fireworks team notes that the water — a 20-hectare storm water retention pond — makes the show sparkle.

"We like this festival. It's a very good place for fireworks with the lake," Kuchugura​ said.

"Water makes some more effects with fireworks. We can use different effects to make a good show."

Kuchugura Dmytro is with the Ukrainian team. He says the water at Elliston Park gives the fireworks displays a certain sparkle. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

The fireworks show that each country puts forward is about sharing.

"We want to describe our country, our culture, our music and our fireworks," Kuchugura​ said.

Meanwhile, Guille recommends treating each evening and country's offerings like a Lay's potato chip.

"Don't just see one, because then you have nothing to compare it to. See them all. Take them in. Get the package. You want to go to all the shows, and they are all fantastic shows."

Here's some more information on GlobalFest 2018.

Fireworks can shoot up 1,000 feet at a venue the size of Elliston Park. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

With files from Julie Debeljak.