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Crew preps for massive fireworks display at Patriots Point

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Tom Knott Tom Knott

CHARLESTON HARBOR, S.C. (WCIV) -- Floating on a barge in the middle of Charleston Harbor, a group of men has spent hours over the last three days setting up a fireworks display considered to be the largest in the state.

"It's almost indescribable the amount of labor that we put into this. For a 16, 17 minute show, we'll probably work a solid 24 hours," said Tom Knott, the crew chief for this year's event.

For the second year in a row, Knott and his five-man crew from Pyrotecnico have worked around the clock making sure Patriots Point's Fourth of July fireworks display is dazzling and flawless for the thousands of people gathering to watch the display.

"I had a crew work overnight and they just went back to the hotel to catch some sleep and the second crew is out on the barge now finishing up the show," Knott said.

Knott and his crew unload dozens of boxes of explosives, connect wiring that runs to a control box that has been programmed to set off each explosive.

"We're dropping them inside the tube. We're covering them with foil," Knott explained Thursday, as he loaded tube after tube with massive explosive shells.

Knott said the foil helps keep out any moisture from rain -- and the Lowcountry has been drenched almost daily in recent weeks -- and protects the shells from hot embers that could prematurely fire adjacent shells.

"Right now it's beautiful, but you know how the last 48 hours have been," he said. "It's not fun to work in the rain, but you just go on."

The careful work takes hours, but the result is a perfectly choreographed show.

This year's show is valued at $25,000 and will run nearly 17 minutes. A massive section in the center of the barge has been reserved for just the grand finale.

"You've got several thousand fireworks going up in the air.  The finale is probably going to last a minute and a half, maybe two minutes. It's going to be pretty spectacular," Knott said.

The fireworks display should kick off shortly after 9 p.m. Knott said someone at Patriots Point would be in touch with him to let him know what exact time to launch. After that, he'll flip the switch and start pressing buttons to give the Lowcountry watching around the harbor a Fourth to remember.

"It's going to be wild," Knott said of the show and the finale. "There will be 500 or 600 shells lifting within 10 seconds of each other."

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