Pyro Spectacular preps for the Rose Bowl

There's a lot of groundwork to be laid for the spectacle in the sky above the Rose Bowl. A behind-the-scenes look at the biggest fireworks show on the West Coast.

10 photos
Jennifer Bjorklund
Ever wonder how they figure out how fireworks will look in the sky? Check out this cross-section of a fireworks shell. This one is called "Americana," and has silver twinkles around a red, white, and blue star.
Jennifer Bjorklund
Pyro Spectacular by Souza, the company that puts on this show, has racks and racks of mortars set up on the golf course behind the Rose Bowl.
Jennifer Bjorklund
They take their pyrotechnics seriously, but it's still safety first.
Jennifer Bjorklund
Heavy-duty fire extinguishers (and Pasadena firefighters) dot the golf course as the pyro-technicians set off some test blasts.
Jennifer Bjorklund
Back in the old days, Pyro Spectacular by Souza patriarch Bob Souza tells us, it used to be a flare and quick getaway. Nowadays, all the fireworks are set off electronically and syncronized perfectly with the music.
Jennifer Bjorklund
The fireworks shells are dropped into these mortars and when the fuse hits them at the bottom, they explode skyward and burst open. There will be six thousand fireworks effects in the Rose Bowl's "Americafest" this year.
Jennifer Bjorklund
This is as close as the show's director, Paul Souza, a fifth-generation pyro-technician (they call them "operators," officially, in the state of California) has to get to the exploding mortars.
Jennifer Bjorklund
The grass on the golf course is littered with small spent shells from a test firing three days before the event. It takes about that long to set up for a show as big as the Rose Bowl's.
Jennifer Bjorklund
And here he is, Paul Souza, the genius behind the show. He personally choreographs and times to the music, selects the effects, and makes it all happen. His uncle told us his specialty is called the "golden palm," a firework that bursts into a palm-shaped golden blast that disintegrates into glitter in the sky.
Fireworks are definitely better at night.
Contact Us