Falmouth Fireworks do not just happen. Planning for the 2018 display at Falmouth Heights Beach began in July 2017 when artist Karen Rinaldo proposed the 2018 theme recognizing the centennial of Irving Berlin’s song, “God Bless America,” written in 1918.
Stephen Pelkey, CEO of Atlas PyroVision in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, accepted the challenge to create a one-of-a-kind show for Falmouth just as he has done for the last 30 years. Mr. Pelkey’s name may not be familiar to many residents, but he is very connected to Falmouth, having married Falmouth native Barbara Fitzpatrick. Once he caught the fireworks committee’s attention, he made a commitment to personalize the town’s 4th of July festivities.
Arthur Ratsy, one of the founders of the Falmouth tradition, recalls how Mr. Pelkey approached him to replace the company that put on the initial fireworks display. After seven years of patiently checking in with the fireworks committee, he was given the opportunity to fire his first show in Falmouth. It was an overwhelming success, and Atlas has never disappointed the committee or the fans of Falmouth Fireworks.
Falmouth has won several accolades for being an outstanding fireworks display, and the term “world class” is not an exaggeration. Atlas PyroVision was selected to represent the United States in a worldwide competition that is currently being held in Danang, Vietnam. Eight countries are competing for the honors, including France, Italy, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. Atlas was chosen from among the finest fireworks companies in the country for this honor.
Mr. Pelkey not only fires the shows, he personally designs the shells spectators see. He explained that “shells are built from the inside out.” Tiny nuggets of color and effect are hand-packed inside a spherical container. Each component is treated with a surface coating that helps determine the timing of the explosion. Other additives provide sparkling showers or loud reports, depending on the effect desired.
Each shell has unique characteristics that Mr. Pelkey sequences and sets to music. The Upper Cape radio stations that simulcast the music enable viewers all along the Falmouth shoreline to enjoy the show as orchestrated by Atlas. Stations owned by CapeCodRadio.com will be playing the audio portion of the display in 2018; among them are PIXY 103 and Frank FM 93.5.
Many shoreline observers have noticed that Oak Bluffs fires an identical show—that is not a coincidence. Both shows are Atlas PyroVision productions, and one further point of coordination is to ensure that the shows mirror each other.
“We are delighted that Steve Pelkey continues his loyalty to Falmouth,” said Lois D’Amelio, chairman of the fireworks committee. “His shows are amazing, and we are most fortunate to have shows that feature never before seen pyrotechnics.”
Indeed, one of Mr. Pelkey’s stipulations is that after he designs a shell, the manufacturers are not allowed to sell that shell to any other company until the following year.
Mr. Pelkey is enthusiastic about Falmouth. “This is the one 4th of July show that I am committed to personally conducting. On the 4th of July, Atlas fires over 200 shows across the country. Barbara and I are always here.” He added, “Falmouth fans are the best audience. The folks at the Heights are fully engaged with the show. They come for a good time and they roar their approval when the show begins.”
Police Chief Edward A. Dunne joins other public safety officers in reminding residents that every pyrotechnic is dangerous. The outer coating of most shells protect them from moisture. Atlas sweeps the beaches after every show, but sometimes it takes a day or two for a shell to wash ashore. Chief Dunne advises, “Please do not touch any unexploded shells. Call 911, and we will send appropriately trained personnel to collect and disarm them.”
Hats, T-shirts, and posters to support the 2018 display are currently for sale at the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce and the Gallery on Main in Falmouth Village.