Pyro Master Gives Nitty Gritty on Grand Park’s 4th of July

Ahhh! The 4th of July is just two days away! I have been hard at work planning the ultimate Los Angeles vacation for my family when they arrive this week. Of course, when you think of 4th of July beaches and barbecues come to mind. However, unlike years past, we are doing things a little differently this year.  We are spending 4th of July downtown. Grand Park will host a extravaganza for the entire city to enjoy, offering tons of great music, numerous food trucks, a little relaxation and a nighttime spectacular. I love a good show, and I was fortunate enough to learn a few things about from the man leaving you in awe at the park this Thursday.


Meet Ron Smith, pyro extraordinaire. Ron has worked on special events such as the opening and closing ceremonies for the Atlanta Olympics, Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, Athens Olympics, 14 of the last 18 Superbowl Halftime Shows, The Oscars, and the grand opening of one of my favorite buildings in Los Angeles – the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Are you seeing a trend here? He’s good.

“I just kind of ‘fell’ into the fireworks industry,” Ron told me, explaining how he began his career in pyrotechnics after owning construction business with his dad in Santa Barbara. One of their team members took some time off work to start working on fireworks shows in Los Angeles. After Ron noticed his colleague was becoming frequently absent, Ron spoke with him about the effects it had on their business. The response Ron got was that he should try it, and that it was the biggest adrenalin rush his colleague had ever had.

“I did just that, and it was. I wound up selling the business and going out on the road with Pink Floyd for 7 months doing the fireworks for them.” He has been hooked ever since.

Pyro Digital Scripting Screen

For each minute of the 4th of July show in Grand Park, Ron has spent  2 hours of work synchronizing the pyro with the music. “I begin with the music selection. Once the music has been decided and put together in sequence, it is then converted to a wave file that I can put into my scripting software to be played through my computer.”

Every time Ron wants an effect to happen he simply hits the space bar, and that then gives a timing mark in his script. Once he has placed all the proper timing marks in the script (to the music), Ron goes back through and inserts the different type of effects into each “timing mark” in the show, so that it “flows” between the colors and the different timing in the music.

Ron will bring a team of 5 to execute the show at the park Thursday. The show begins just after Sunset and can be seen all throughout the park, with the best viewing areas on the fountain terrace, Performance Lawn (between Grand and Hill) and the Event Lawn (between Spring and Broadway).


If you’re coming down to the park this 4th, think about taking the Metro. Grand Park has a station dedicated to servicing all park guests (Red and Purple Lines at Civic Center/Grand Park). In addition, Metro is launching a great art tour on the 4th of July called Metro Art Moves_DTLA. I got a chance to test out the tour a few weeks back and I must say I loved every minute of it. Docents begin at 7th Street/Metro Center Station and explore the many works of art in this station, Union Station and wrap up at Civic Center/Grand Park Station (just in time for the block party!). I take Metro quite frequently, but what was interesting was that half the time I am in such a rush I never got a chance to simply stop and take a look at the artwork at each station. It is quite impressive and very well thought out. The tour begins at 5:30 on the Figueroa Street side of the 7th Street/Metro Center Station.

Joshua Levi, special to Grand Park, Downtown With Me