For over 15 years, the fireworks you see at the end of the evening during K-Days have been crafted by Dan Roy, owner and operator of Big Bang Fireworks Inc. Dan is based out of Calgary, Alberta, and this time of year, he’s busy with Canada Day and summer festival fireworks. He has produced shows all over Canada, from Kitimat to Halifax – as well as shows in Mexico, the United States, and Belgium!
Canada Day Live Stream
Dan will be live streaming a fireworks show for Canada Day on July 1. Check out the show on his Instagram: bigbangfireworks_canada
Q & A
With current events, Canada Day fireworks and the K-Days festival fireworks aren’t happening this year. So instead, we thought we’d take a few minutes to ask Dan some questions and look back at some fireworks from years past.
Q: Not every kid grows up wanting to work in fireworks. How did you get started in the business?
Dan Roy: Well it’s a funny story, years ago I was dating this girl who was a model. I spent a lot of time with her at the agency, so one day her agent got me a gig as a model for a Levi’s ad. I modeled for a bit and came to get to know the business owner next door to the agent. I had lived in Quebec a few years and he was from Quebec, so we became fast friends. One day he told me he was going to open a fireworks company as that is what he did back east. My modeling gigs were ending so I volunteered to do his marketing. When he started, he had 1 client and I was able to help him grow his business. After a few years of learning the ropes I decided to branch out and go on my own, thus the start of Big Bang Fireworks Inc.
Q: With over 15 years producing the K-Days fireworks, you must have some memorable moments. Any come to mind?
Dan: There are several memorable experiences! A couple of my favourites…the flame effects we started using a few years ago have been a big hit. I also really liked the huge wheel that we built a couple of years ago, which we hung from a man-lift, allowing us to shoot fireworks 360 degrees. Those aside, I always love doing the shows there. I like the intimacy of the venue and the fact that we get to do different shows every night, for ten nights, for the people of Edmonton.
Q: What goes into programming a fireworks show?
Dan: Depends on the show. But it takes much longer than people might think. First thing is choosing music. That takes a fair bit of time. Once that is done, I usually expect each song to take a day’s worth of work. It then takes a few days to put together the individual songs. If I’m rushed, once the music has been selected, I can probably put a show together in 3 – 4 days, plus another day for programming all the timing of all the cues in the show.
Q: What tools do you use, and how much time does it take to build a show?
Dan: Basic tools to set up…a Leatherman tool, various types of tape, zip ties, etc. We use state of the art digital computer equipment to shoot the shows, however, I program shows on my laptop and then download the programs to the digital systems that we use on-site.
Q: What things do you need to consider when it comes to weather?
Dan: We cannot shoot fireworks during lighting storms or with winds over 40 kph. Otherwise all weather is fair game…sunny and nice, rainy, and cold, winter and -40℃.
Q: What is the typical length of show you do?
Dan: Depends on budget if course. Generally, I try to make all shows at least 5 mins in duration, but I do not like to go beyond 15 mins or so. Keep people engaged.
Q: You’ve also won awards for your work! Which awards have you won?
Dan: We have won a People’s Choice Award at GlobalFest and another at a festival in Mexico. The competition shows are tough to place at. Most competitors are manufacturers, so they can put in way more product than we can; we do not pay manufacturer prices. And I like to have some slower songs. I don’t go bombastic from start to finish. We often have the best shows in competitions — something the site crew always tells us — but judges often go for the show with the most fireworks.
Q: How many shows do you usually do for Canada Day and the Summer?
Dan: We typically do 34 – 40 shows for Canada Day but this year the majority have cancelled so we will have 6 shows across Alberta. The summer we usually see about 60 shows.
Nightly fireworks at K-Days have been a staple attraction for the fair for years. It takes the Northlands team and partners like Dan months of planning to put on the shows that you see! Running 10 nights of fireworks shows include researching and selecting just the right songs for each night, working on the safety plans and protocols, making sure staff are trained, and getting the proper permits are in place. All the work is worth it when you hear the sounds of appreciation coming from the crowd each night.