Behind the Scenes: Rockford’s 4th of July Fireworks Show


Rockford’s annual 4th of July fireworks show gets bigger and better every year, but it doesn’t happen overnight.

Before Stateliners can enjoy the show, thousands of fireworks are lined up and wired together by a crew from Melrose Pyrotechnics; workers using saran wrap to protect the shells from any potential rain.

The company’s Creative Director, Matt Peterson, is the mastermind behind the show, and has been for the past 8 years. He uses special computer software to sync the explosions with the music he’s given.

“So when Neil Diamond yells out ‘Today!’, we have a specific product, or firework, that’s supposed to go with that (part) in that song,” explained Peterson.

The Rockford fireworks show is the largest in the state. It’s 30 minutes long, but it takes months of prep. Peterson must first create the show, then order all of the shells he needs for it.

“It requires days of packaging this according to that design we’ve created,” said Peterson. “Then once all that’s done, and a blueprint for the site has been done as to where everything goes, then we’re able to get it on a truck, bring it out here, and start the installation.”
Peterson and his crew then place the shells where they belong according to the blueprint. They get wired together, and then into a central system that’s controlled by a computer.

Peterson says technology has made things much safer for him and his crew members.

“We have the ability to turn off locations if we feel like there was something that didn’t go as planned. But for the most part, we are at somewhat of a pretty safe distance, we’re not up right next to it,” he said.

Peterson says it’s challenging to get everything ready, but the end result is worth it.

“When it’s all said and done, and it’s all been done safely, and everyone’s enjoyed themselves and got a big smile on their face…that’s my favorite part.”

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