Grand patriotism for Independence Day

June 27, 2013 

Workers this week were busy sprucing up downtown's Grand Park for its inaugural 4th of July celebration.

Surrounded by iconic government buildings and carefully planted with diverse flora from around the world, downtown Los Angeles’ Grand Park isn’t the ideal place for the fiery explosions typical of big Independence Day events. So park staff had to get creative for the upcoming 4th of July Block Party.

“We’re kind of limited in the kind of fireworks we can shoot off,” said Julia Diamond, Grand Park’s programming director. “We have a beautiful park and architecture, so we want to be extra careful.”

For the past three months, Diamond and her staff have been meeting regularly with Los Angeles Fire Department officials to come up with a way to have a fireworks show that will still bring plenty of oohs and aahs. Traditional rockets that explode hundreds of feet in the air were ruled out; they leave behind burning shells that require a fallout zone to prevent fires and keep people safe.

Luckily, this is Tinseltown, where special effects and pyrotechnics are serious business. A local company, J.E.M. FX, was tapped to design a display suitable for the venue’s first-ever Independence Day celebration.  They plan to use “proximate pyro” effects, designed to dazzle crowds at close range. Ron Smith, vice president of theatrical operations for the company, said the show will be similar to those you’d see at the Super Bowl or a music festival. The lack of big rockets won’t make it any less impressive, he said.

“It’s more up-close and personal,” Smith said. “You can design effects close to the music beats—because it’s close to the ground you can choreograph better.”

The fiery display will take place on the park’s middle block by the Court of Flags. Guests can spread blankets on both sides of the show, either on the grassy block in front of City Hall or the block in front of  The Music Center, where the restored Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain is located and where most of the night’s other entertainment will take place. The fireworks display will last about 10 minutes and use about a thousand different effects.

The brand of pyrotechnics won’t be the only non-traditional entertainment. As part of its continuing celebration of L.A.’s diversity, “the park for everyone,” as Grand Park bills itself, will avoid things like the 1812 Overture or the pomp of John Philip Sousa. KCRW DJ Anthony Valadez will spin globally-influenced dance music and L.A.-based artists Ethio Cali and Jungle Fire will perform live world music. Young slam poetry stars from Get Lit will perform at the event, too, as they brush up for national competition.

Of course, no outdoor event in L.A. is complete without gourmet food trucks. Game On Gourmet and the Rollin’ Rib BBQ Joint will be among the culinary fleet stationed at both ends of the park.
The music starts around 4 p.m. and the pyrotechnics will begin around 9 p.m.  Parking is available at the Music Center and other lots, but the best bet may be to take Metro’s Red Line to the Civic Center/Grand Park station. Visitors who bring their TAP transit pass can pick up a free pair of Grand Park sunglasses at the information booth.

For organizers like Diamond, major holiday events like this are an opportunity to realize the park’s mission.

“The 4th of July is a chance for Grand Park to fulfill the role it was designed to play in this city,” said Diamond. “Grand Park is meant to be the civic heart of L.A.”

Posted 6/27/13


Print Friendly, PDF & Email