Man behind the fireworks magic |

Man behind the fireworks magic

William Ferchland

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune file/ Ken Nixon examines the mortar tubes used to launch the fireworks from the deck of the old M.S. Dixie.

As owner and operator of Pyrodigital Consultants, Ken Nixon is the man behind the fireworks show for Labor Day. The show is set to start Sunday at 8:30 p.m.

Did you always like fireworks? Were you a kid who sat in open-mouthed awe during Fourth of July?

Of course. Yeah, I grew up as a teenager in Nebraska where consumer fireworks were legal and abundant. So I have a great love for fireworks.

What about explosions? Ever put a cherry bomb in a toilet or an M-80 in a cantaloupe?

Ah, no, of course not. When I grew up pre-1966 those devices were illegal.

What was your first memory of a fireworks display?

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Well, probably the ones I would do as a kid with consumer fireworks. We had a place out on the river where we could do those things.

How did you get into your profession?

Moving to California was kind of a drought. No fireworks. Really I got involved with some professional manufacturer in the early ’80s near Fresno. The place was Primo Fireworks. They had the original contract with Harrah’s in 1983.

Ever burn a finger?

Little burns, but I still have all 10.

Any differences between a Labor Day display and a Fourth of July display?

Well, we make the display with the same intensity. It’s a little smaller so we make it shorter in time. We try to make it the same intensity as the Fourth of July.

What songs would you like to see in a fireworks display that don’t necessarily mesh with Labor Day and the Fourth of July?

My signature piece is always sort of a love ballad or a ballad that starts very slowly, builds into an orchestral climax and has a soft ending.

Any holidays where you think there should be fireworks?

Well, every day.

Did you put in a bid for the Hunter S. Thompson canon sendoff?

Um, no.

If you weren’t doing this, what do you think you’d be doing?

Well, I’m an engineer and I used to work in the oil business at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

What’s the secret to a good finale? Just blow up the rest of the cache?

No. The finale is all about timing and color coordination and trying to build intensity so it can start and get more and more powerful. This finale, we have a long section of blue, little salutes at the end. I make my finales very strong; give at least 20 percent of the product. That’s the last thing they see so you leave them with a good impression

Does fireworks technology change quickly? In other words, how often do people see new fireworks?

Well, there’s always new stuff coming along. …

How would you describe your perfect fireworks display?

No more than half an hour or everybody’s neck gets tired from looking at the sky. A perfect display for me is something I’m happy with, everything went off and there were no intentional dark holes.

Do you ever miss not being able to relax and watch the show yourself?

Well, that was one of the original design concepts of Pyrodigital. I enjoy the work I created. I let the computer do the work so I don’t have to look down and push the buttons.