Weather Forecast


The brains behind the blast in Duluth

Workers with Pyrotechnic Display INc., prepare fireworks for the Fourth of July celebration. (Bob King /

Dozens of tall, plastic mortars propped up by wooden racks filled an industrial field next to the Duluth Harbor on Thursday afternoon.

A crew of six from Mark Hanson’s Pyrotechnic Display Inc. worked to place shells into the mortars and arrange wiring all according to blueprints. The detailed work meant communication between everything on the field and a computer system would go off without a hitch during the $50,000 Fourth of July fireworks display.

“We go through multiple checks ensuring everything is set up correctly,” said Peter Schumack of Maple Grove, Minn., in his fourth year with the company.

The annual celebration — set for 10:10 p.m. today — will be timed to music choreographed by NU92 FM (92.1 FM). Hanson said the station is actually “firing” the show via digital code, but he has the ability to stop it if there is a problem. His crew and Duluth Fire Department employees will be at the site during the display.

Hanson’s St. Cloud-based company has worked the Visit Duluth-run show for several years. He enjoys it, he said.

“We shoot the biggest shells here and the most,” he said. “It’s fun to be a part of that. And it’s usually cool here. Everyone else is in 90 degrees.”

Thousands of three- to 12-inch shells, which include fountains, flower baskets and smiley faces, will ignite during the roughly 25-minute show. Hanson’s crew began setting up Wednesday, and expects to finish by noon today, putting in a full 24 hours of set-up time.

The show isn’t bigger this year, said new Visit Duluth president and CEO Anna Tanski, but it’s different, as it is every year.

“The way it changes is the size of the shells and the way they are timed, and the music changes every year,” said Tanski, who replaced long-time president Terry Mattson. He’s now president of Visit Saint Paul and the RiverCentre Authority, putting on a fireworks display for the first time in that city amidst flooding struggles.

Duluth’s fireworks display remains the biggest show in the state, Tanski said.