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Ford Fireworks maestro promises spectacular show

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News
Zambelli pyrotechnicians work Saturday on 11,000 mortars that will be set off during The Ford Fireworks on Monday. The mortars are divided up over three barges.

Detroit— The maestro of the Ford Fireworks display the past several years said that Monday’s nighttime show over the Motor City skyscrapers will be nothing short of spectacular.

And there’s a good reason for that, said Patrick Brault, 50, who has been creating fireworks magic in the skies in the world’s largest cities and at events for more than 30 years.

“I design the show so what you see in the sky came from my mind,” said Brault, as he and other workers on Saturday put the finishing touches on the three barges holding the fireworks that will shoot into the sky off the Detroit River.

His imagination seems nothing short of brilliant, as Brault revealed that the 58th annual Ford Fireworks will have a faster pace with 1,000 more fireworks and more “raw, brighter colors” than in previous years to fit into the 24-minute show.

“I asked if I could do a little bit more this year and they said yes,” said Brault, a Montreal native. “People like more. The soundtrack is very upbeat and fast-moving. It fits with the music. Sometimes you want a real high impact so you want really bright colors to go with the high impact. It’s all a question of design.”

Among the 23 or so songs in the show will be music from late artists such as Prince and David Bowie, but fireworks fans will also hear the standard 1812 Overture played in nearly every fireworks show.

Best seats for the 2016 Ford Fireworks in Detroit

The fireworks will feature 11,000 shells and weigh about 5 tons, with mortars and wooden support racks that hold the fireworks going as high as 900 feet into the Detroit skyline and 800 feet in diameter. The barges will be just off the Renaissance Center on the river. There will be comets and other designs that the public will like, Brault said.

He added some “middle-level effects just to keep the rhythm going.”

“So there are more explosions per se happening at some key times in the show just to keep with the upbeat of the show,” Brault said.

Tony Michaels, the CEO and president of The Parade Company which produces the show, said fireworks lovers are going to appreciate Monday’s show even more than in the past.

“We’re at the same 24 minutes we were last year but we have about another 1,000 fireworks put in the show coming up on Monday night,” Michaels said. “So it is loaded. We really jammed it with energy. We tried to go high and low, with more speed, a little more rock and faster pace.”

Brault, who has his own company based in Quebec called Sirius Pyrotechnics, said his love of fireworks started with a girl he wanted to impress in France.

“I wanted to wow her,” he said. Although that failed to work out, his fireworks genius did, allowing him to travel the world to create fireworks shows.

Among his shows have been the Fourth of July fireworks in Philadelphia in 2005 with Elton John playing live, the dedication of the Pretronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, among the tallest in the world, as well as shows in Spain, Italy and Germany.

Patrick Brault, left, who has his own company based in Quebec called Sirius Pyrotechnics, said his love of fireworks started with a girl he wanted to impress in France. “I wanted to wow her,” he said. Although that failed to work out, his fireworks genius did, allowing him to travel the world to create fireworks shows.

His first fireworks display in Detroit came in 2009, but he visited the city a year before “because I told my clients I have to see where it’s going to be shot from. I put myself on where the target audience would be and the audience is the people on the rooftops. I put myself there, imagine the barges and I close my eyes. I write down what I see and start building on that.”

Mike Niedzwecki, a pyrotechnician for Zambelli Fireworks, which is managing the fireworks setup and working with Brault, said he’s always been passionate about fireworks even as a kid when he started a fire in his parents’ basement twice.

The retired UPS worker always wanted to work with fireworks, and he has gotten his wish working with Zambelli Fireworks. Among his favorites is the Thunder Over Louisville, the annual kickoff for the Ketucky Derby, but Monday’s show in Detroit “will match that.”

“The design that’s completely him,” Niedzwecki said of Brault. “I certainly expect it to be one of the best shows Zambelli does because Patrick’s the choreographer and known worldwide. He owns his own fireworks company. He has manufactured shells. He knows everything there is to know about them.”

lfleming@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2620

Twitter@leonardnfleming