Crew of 9 poised to set Old Sac's sky ablaze tonight

12/31/2012 12:00 AM

01/01/2013 2:45 PM

As many as 40,000 New Year's Eve revelers are expected to turn their eyes up to crisp, clear skies in Old Sacramento to welcome in 2013 with a bang.

And Jordan Hunter and his crew were working Sunday to make sure the event is an explosive one.

Hunter – a licensed pyrotechnician, or fireworks expert – arrived at a West Sacramento parking lot before dawn, building the racks and positioning the guns that will shoot 6,000 aerial shells to light up the sky above Sacramento's waterfront tonight.

For the 13th straight year, two free fireworks displays will burst over Old Sacramento at 9 p.m. and midnight. The earlier, 11-minute show, tailored to the younger set, will be choreographed to pop music and family-friendly tunes, including a tribute to singer Taylor Swift.

The main event – midnight's "sky concert" – will be a 16-minute show scripted to classic rock, such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin and Queen. In the second display, about 1,000 shells will be rocketed from the Tower Bridge.

The New Year's Eve Sky Spectacular in Old Sacramento also will include live music and fire juggling.

The party is an economic shot in the arm for area hotels, restaurants and businesses, said Mike Testa, vice president of business development for the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, which is hosting the event.

"Embassy Suites, Delta King and the Holiday Inn are all sold out for that night," Testa said, attributing the bump in lodging activity to the celebration in the city's historical section. "People are able to celebrate, then walk back to their hotel rooms, so it works out perfectly.

"If you have a waterfront view at the Embassy Suites, you can watch the fireworks from your room."

Testa said many restaurants are offering specials and staying open later.

Some Old Sacramento merchants will take their business to the streets during the event, selling merchandise from outdoor displays.

The event costs the bureau about $65,000, Testa said, but the city gets some of that back from parking revenues.

Testa said the show, the biggest in the area, polishes Sacramento's reputation as one of the key cities in the region and state. "This show is important because we're the capital of California, and this raises the image of Sacramento," he said.

Hunter and his crew of nine workers, including his father, hammered together racks and placed tubes at various angles in them. The tubes will hold the assembled fireworks shells.

Hunter, owner of Fireworks America in Tracy, designs and choreographs the show, using a computer, a data table and internal clocks to set off the blasts at the correct times. The shells range from 2 to 6 inches in diameter, and will explode in a rainbow of colors.

"The DJ in Old Sac sends a signal to me, so we're in sync," he said.

He said viewers will see red peonies, blue chrysanthemums and purple dahlias, along with some smiley faces, double hearts and solid circles of sparkling light.

"My favorite is a nishiki kamuro," said Hunter, who is also a Mendota police officer. "It has a big break, fills the sky and has a long burning time. We have a gold one in this show."

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