A first for Fourth: fireworks from Mass. Ave. bridge

With a new pyrotechnics company in charge, a reconfiguration of the barges on the Charles River, and pyrotechnics fired from the Massachusetts Avenue bridge, event organizers said Monday the public can expect a fireworks display like no other on the Fourth of July in Boston.

Promising “basically every firework shell you’ve ever seen,” pyrotechnics show producer Matt Shea said this year’s show will include about 16,000 different effects, or individual bursts of color and sound.

“This year we’ve really worked hard to give viewers an enormous variety of shells. . . . We have every color you could possibly imagine,” Shea, vice president of Atlas PyroVision of Jaffrey, N.H., said. “Viewers of this year’s fireworks show will feel that this show is different from anything they have ever seen.”


For the first time in the event’s 40-year history, the Fourth of July fireworks display on the Charles River will include pyrotechnics fired from the Massachusetts Avenue bridge, which will be closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

A sound technician on Sunday helped prepare for the Fourth of July celebration to be held along the Esplanade.
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The pyrotechnics on the bridge, lined up for more than 1,000 feet, will contribute to a “new visual perspective” and “amazing sight lines to everyone watching the display,” Shea said.

Fireworks are “explosives that lift out of a mortar and travel a distance,” while the pyrotechnics on the bridge will be similar to spark fountains, according to Steve MacDonald of Boston 4 Productions, which produces the event.

From the barges on the Charles River, which will be positioned differently this year, Shea will set off hundreds of fireworks in synchronization with a soundtrack during the roughly 20-minute display. Shea will also launch fireworks from two satellite barges, each one several hundred feet away from the main barge.

“It is a multidimensional show,” he said.


The fireworks display will also feature Atlas’s “Super Tower” platform, a structure on the main barge that will fire over 800 “comets’’ — similar to what is fired from a Roman candle — from 15 different angles, the company said.

The fireworks and bridge pyrotechnics will all be synchronized with the soundtrack and triggered through a system of five computers, Shea said. He and two other pyrotechnicians will monitor the show from a secure metal container on the main barge. All others must remain 1,000 feet from the barges, MacDonald said.

Shea’s team has been receiving numerous weather briefings each day leading up to the Fourth and the show is designed to work well under most weather conditions, he said.

Shea, a native of Andover, said his planning team took into consideration the fact that the Fourth of July is one of the first large-scale celebrations in the city since the bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260 near the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street on April 15.

“We started our planning, of course, before the Marathon incident happened, but we started the music afterward,” he said. “It is a very different soundtrack; it is a very soulful, very meaningful soundtrack and the fireworks go with that very, very well. I think people will feel this soundtrack was created specifically for Boston.”


Shea has experience in producing fireworks shows just months after devastating attacks, having produced the Fourth of July display in Washington, D.C., less than a year after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“Other cities may have dialed back on their events a bit,” in recent years, Shea said. “But these guys in Boston said, ‘Let’s do it and let’s make it greater than ever.’ There isn’t a better place to watch a fireworks display, as far as I’m concerned, than Boston.”

Colin A. Young can be reached at