The art of fireworks

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Hilton Head Island’s midsection takes its summers very seriously.

It doesn’t let up for a single weekday from Memorial Day through Labor Day, hosting an ongoing party for hundreds of its friends at HarbourFest.

The events, held Mondays through Friday evenings at Shelter Cove Harbour, feature live entertainment from Shannon Tanner and Cappy the Clown, both of whom could go by just their first names in these parts. They are that well-known and well-loved.

Their enthusiasm is infectious any day of the week, but the energy ramps up a bit on Tuesdays. As most visitors know, Tuesdays are extra special. These days are capped off with a fireworks display that lights up the night sky over Broad Creek. 

This year, the Tuesday fireworks will start at 9:30 p.m. to give people plenty of time to get settled in for the spectacle.

And thanks to the new Shelter Cove Towne Centre, there are even more areas from which to watch the light show, said Karen Kozemchak, director of marketing for Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort. 

Putting on the show is no small task, Kozemchak said. It takes hours of preparation.

The weekly show, which lasts about 15 minutes, takes four to six hours to set up.

The key concern is the safety and security of the people who put on the fireworks display, she said. The display is presented by a licensed and certified fireworks provider.

“They have to move 500 pounds of explosives from ship to boat to barge,” Kozemchak said.

Once the fireworks are loaded into cannisters on the barge, organizers return to shore.

“(The fireworks) are all set off remotely,” she said. “No one is on the barge when they’re going off. It’s much safer that way.”

But because of the time needed to set up the show, weather can wreak havoc on those weekly plans.

“The weather is our biggest challenge,” Kozemchak said. “Sometimes people don’t understand why we’ve canceled the show when the weather clears up by 7 p.m. They don’t understand it takes four to six hours to set up the show. If we aren’t certain of the weather by mid-afternoon, we have to cancel. If we don’t get the window to set it up, you can’t shoot them. It’s a long tail."

This year, if Tuesday’s show gets rained out, organizers will try again on Wednesday.

The fireworks will be held every Tuesday with the exception of July 5.

That week, the big show is on the Fourth.

“That show takes eight to 10 hours to set up," Kozemchak said.

Palmetto Dunes is the primary sponsor for the event, but many local businesses serve as sponsors, too. The joint effort shows visitors how important they are to all local businesses. 

 “The weekly show costs well into six figures each year," Kozemchak said. “We’re always looking for local sponsors. It’s a good investment. The fireworks bring in 6,000 to 7,000 people every week.”