“If it isn’t Melrose, we’re not going to do the show.”
Village of Itasca, Illinois
Village of Itasca, Illinois
The Fourth of July Celebration in Itasca, Illinois has grown to the largest July 4th event in the state—with good reason, says Rick Staback, organizer. In this little village, a commercial real estate group opens up its 300-acre campus every year to host and help sponsor the show that draws upwards of 30,000 awe-struck celebrators every year.
“Attendance has really grown through the years,” says Staback. “We have people coming back the next year with more friends and family. It’s word of mouth. Someone tells others: You have to come see this show! Audience groups that are four or five one year grow into groups of 20 or 30 or 40 the next. It’s amazing that a small village like ours with a population of about 6,000 can draw this kind of crowd.”
Some shells, says Staback, are a quarter mile in diameter. “You can see the fireworks for miles,” he says, “and sometimes distant traffic stops as drivers want to watch.”
This kind of event, with more than 4,000 shells choreographed to custom soundtracks, begins months ahead with intensive collaboration from the Melrose Pyrotechnics team. Passionate about his music, Staback comes to Bob, the choreographer, and Jon the soundtrack artist, with ideas and requests. Together, he says, “We sit down and listen to music for several days to make our selections. They’re right there with me working it out.”
In fact, he says, “It’s not just about the music. It takes a special brand of talent to understand which music will work with when and how the shells go off—and how to match a moment in the music with each stunning effect. They’re very, very talented people. They live and breathe this stuff. It’s part of their DNA.”
Pacing is important, too, feels Staback. “They understand how to roll out the strong beginning, enthrall audiences through every minute of the show, and close out with a huge finale.” Staback enjoys computer-based planning with Bob as he examines shell options and previews effects and music to fine-tune choices. When the show is finalized and it’s “curtain time,” the show is precision-accurate, never a surprise, says Staback. Driven by wireless signals and pumping music through a concert-quality sound system, it becomes 25 minutes of unmatched ecstasy.
“They’re perfectionists—very detail oriented. The pyrotechnics team is very conservative, and they spend time ahead to make sure the show is set up correctly. They always do exactly what they say they will do,” says Staback. “They’re truly in a class by themselves.”
Pleased with a 25-year relationship with Melrose Pyrotechnics, Staback sometimes has to answer: Why Melrose Pyrotechnics? Should we consider someone else? His answer: “If it isn’t Melrose, we’re not going to do the show.”