J&M Displays lighting the sky for the Fourth

Tonight, fireworks will illuminate skies across the United States and Knox County is no exception.

Knox Park in Knoxville and Big Bang Boom at Lake Storey Park in Galesburg both will launch displays not long after dusk.

Big Bang Boom, the larger more complicated of the two, will be launched by J&M Displays of Yarmouth, Iowa.

J&M’s Justin Thomas is the chief operator and designer of this year’s show.

Thomas remembers when J&M used an analog system that required someone pushing switches to set off shells. He says it felt like a “war zone.”

Now the digital system they use, Thomas tells WGIL, allows operators to stand 300 to 400 feet behind the shoot site.

“The digital system we’re using now, Pyrodigital, which works off the software Show Director, is fantastic,” he says. “It takes everything to the millisecond. It’s really pretty high tech. When you think of the explosives, it matches explosives to the millisecond of what you want to see in the air at that moment. It really is a game changer.”

Thomas says he holds on to a “deadman switch” the entire show in case anything goes wrong and the display needs to shut off.

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