July 4 celebration at Fort promises a rainbow of explosions

Event will benefit from better technology

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter



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Fireworks Shows

• Independence Day at Fort Vancouver

Hours: Gates open at 8 a.m., close after the fireworks display.

Events: Five entertainment zones with musical acts, games and demonstrations starting at noon; vendors open at noon; Fred Meyer’s Patriotic Parade starts at 4 p.m.; fireworks launch at 10:05 p.m.

Admission: $5 in advance, $7 at the gate, free for kids age 12 and younger. Prime viewing, $50 for 21 and older, $25 for 21 and younger, free for children age 5 and younger.

Transportation: C-Tran will run shuttles to the event every 15 minutes from the north side of the Westfield Vancouver mall, 8700 N.E. Vancouver Mall Drive, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., with return service available after the fireworks show. Round-trip costs $2. Paid parking will be available to the east and west of Fort Vancouver National Site. Downtown metered parking is free. Bicycles can be stored at monitored bike parking at the event.

More information: Independence Day at Fort Vancouver or call (360) 992-1808

• Felida Children’s Parade

Hours: Parade, 10:45 to 11:45 a.m., followed by free picnic lunch, exhibits and games until 2:30 p.m.

Location: Parade lineup will be at Felida Park at the Northwest 127th Street gate.

Admission: Free.

More information: 360-573-4030.

• Ridgefield 4th of July Celebration

Hours: Events start at 7 a.m., close after the 10 p.m. fireworks display.

Events: Pancake breakfast at Ridgefield Community Center, 210 N. Main Ave., 7-10 a.m.; fun runs at North Main Avenue and Simons Street starting at 8 a.m.; pet and kid pre-parade begins at 10 a.m. at the corner of Pioneer Street and Main Avenue; Fourth of July Parade starts at 11 a.m. at North Fourth Avenue and Division; chicken and salmon barbecue, noon-3:30 p.m. at Abrams Park; Kids Day, noon-6 p.m. at Refuge Overlook Park; Coaster Derby, 2-4 p.m. at Fifth Avenue and Simon Street; street dance at South Main Avenue, 6-10 p.m.; fireworks, 10 p.m. to close.

Admission: Free, except for the fun runs, which are $20-$30 for the 10k, $15-$25 for the 5k.

More information: Ridgefield 4th of July or 360-887-8291.

•Camas-Washougal Riverside Concert Series

Hours: 6-11 p.m.

Location: Port of Camas-Washougal Marina Park

Events: Concerts by Justin Klump Band and Big Night Out, 6-11 p.m.; fireworks display from a barge on the Columbia River at 10 p.m.

Admission: Free.

More information: Port of Camas-Washougal or 360-834-3611.

• Yacolt Rendezvous July 4th

Hours: 10 a.m. to dusk.

Events: Parade at Railroad Avenue at 10 a.m.; vendors and kid village from noon to 7 p.m. at the Little League Fields; lawn-mower races at 3 p.m. at the Little League fields; fireworks at dusk.

Admission: Free.

More information: Yacolt Rendezvous or 360-686-3922.

Fort Vancouver Celebration by the numbers

20: Length in minutes of the 2012 fireworks show, compared with 25 minutes in 2011.

10,274: Individual fireworks shots in the 2012 show, compared with 7,126 in 2011.

5,651: Pounds of fireworks to be launched in the 2012 show.

1,529: Pounds of explosives used to launch those fireworks.

450: Height in feet of tallest fireworks.

30,000-35,000: Number of people expected to attend, the same as 2011 and 2010 attendance.

1855: Year of Vancouver’s first Fourth of July Celebration.

1962: Year the Fort Vancouver fireworks display began. There was no show in 2009.

Fourth of July street closures

July 2 through July 4: Fort Vancouver Way from Mill Plain to Fourth Plain, including the median strip, will be a no-parking/tow-away zone.

July 4:

All-day street closures:

Evergreen Boulevard closed from U Street west to I-5.

Evergreen Boulevard at West Reserve.

East Reserve south from Mill Plain.

Ninth Street at East Reserve.

Eighth Street at T Street.

Fifth and Sixth Streets at U Street.

Mill Plain at Fort Vancouver Way (Fort Vancouver Way from Mill Plain south will be closed all day).

Street closures beginning at 6 p.m.

Mill Plain exit from I-5 northbound.

Mill Plain exit from I-5 southbound will be west only (right turn).

Mill Plain between East Reserve and Fort Vancouver Way will be closed to all traffic from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Fort Vancouver Way south of McLoughlin Boulevard.

Street closures beginning at 9 p.m.

Highway 14 at Grove Street/Columbia House Drive exit.

Highway 14 at Columbia House Drive/Columbia Way exit.

Information: 360-992-1808 or Independence Day at Fort Vancouver.

Patriotic people who love purple with a passion will be thrilled to see the pyrotechnics at the Independence Day at Fort Vancouver celebration.

Purple was considered a difficult firework color just a few decades ago, but this year it will take center stage during the Fort's annual display.

The show will kick off with a shower of purple, green and silver comets, followed by bursts that look like purple stained glass, said Heather Gobet, who designed this year's show for Western Display Fireworks.

The new types of shells and vibrant colors are a combination that wouldn't have been possible even a decade ago, she said.

"The technology has changed and the variety of colors has expanded exponentially," Gobet said. "It used to be the only colors were gold, silver, red, blue and green. Now we have purple, magenta, aqua, lemon-yellow, turquoise and orange.

And those colors are really true, not faded."

Better colors and improved production techniques have significantly broadened the tools that Gobet can use in creating a fireworks show. Gobet's family, which owns Western Display, has been putting on the Vancouver show since it began in 1962.

"There are some really cool things in the display this year," she said. "I'm really excited about the opener, especially. The purple stained glass shells, which are segmented, they're new -- and they really look like panes of stained glass."

Firework colors are determined by a variety of chemical elements.

Way back, when black powder, the first firework type, was first discovered by the Chinese in about 220 B.C., the explosions were just white.

Over the years, alchemists and tinkerers figured out how to add color to the explosions by using materials such as strontium for red, copper for blue or barium for green, said Robert Ewing, a chemist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.

"They'd put in these elements that, when you heat them up, they give off a particular spectrum of light," Ewing said.

There are several conflicting stories about how fireworks were first discovered in China. Some suggest a cook accidentally created black powder while trying to spice food.

Ewing, who used to teach chemistry, has another story he likes.

"In 220 B.C., Chinese alchemists were trying to separate gold from silver and they added the chemicals in the wrong order," Ewing said. "It blew up, and that was how they discovered it."

In recent years, fireworks manufacturers have significantly fine-tuned the mixture of chemicals used in their shells, which has created the broader spectrum of possible colors for fireworks shows.

Sound is also an interesting component in some fireworks, Ewing said.

Whistlers, which start off high-pitched and drop in tone, work by using packed black powder interlaced with crystals that produce a sound wave.

The material is packed in a tube, and the length of space in the tube determines the sound. So when the material initially burns, there's only a small space, which creates a high-pitched sound wave. As material burns away, the space inside the tube increases and the tone drops, Ewing explained.

This year's fireworks show at Fort Vancouver will be five minutes shorter than the 2011 show, but it will pack a lot more punch, Gobet said.

The 20-minute display will use 10,274 shots, compared with 7,126 in 2011.

"Last year, attendees said they wanted a more aerial show and less of a ground show, so we'll have a lot more shots that go high in the air this year," said Cara Cantonwine, director of programs for the Fort Vancouver National Trust, which puts on the show.

The entertainment at the event will span far beyond fireworks, she added.

The celebration will include five entertainment zones with musical acts, games and children's activities.

The hands-on history area has expanded from previous years, and will include several exhibits where visitors can try activities that were common in the fort's past, Cantonwine said.

"One part of that is a new interpretation of laundresses," she said. "The area will have stations where people can do laundry like they did in the 1800s and early 1900s."

That's probably also good news for anybody who spills food on their clothing at the event. Visitors can learn how laundresses used washboards and other devices.

That area will also include a fur trapping display and black powder gun demonstrations throughout the day.

The trust has also beefed up the entertainment in the prime viewing area, with performances by Melody Guy, The KingPins and a two-hour performance from 8-10 p.m. by 5 Guys Named Moe.

"Attendees said they wanted better entertainment, so we brought in a bigger band this year," Cantonwine said. "It's going to be a really fun event."

In 2011 and 2010, about 35,000 people attended the celebration. This year, with the Fourth of July falling on a Wednesday, organizers aren't sure what the turnout will be.

"It's been quite a while since we've had it fall on a Wednesday," Cantonwine said. "It will be interesting to see what that does to our attendance."