"What started with our germ of an idea for the Fourth of July fireworks display here inadvertently became an international business," said Dan Barker, owner of Pyrotechnics Management Inc., on the Benner Pike in State College.
"It was because Kay (Barker) and I sat here, I don't know, 20 years ago, and said, 'There has to be something more to do in State College than look at the sun on the Fourth of July.' "
The Barkers teamed with engineer friends and built a digital firing system now known as FireOne.The computer system allowed them to shoot mass quantities of fireworks instantly and choreograph the firing to music.The show was "very Mickey Mouse" the first year, he
said, but soon grew more complex, with new techniques that included shooting fireworks off Beaver Stadium, Bryce Jordan Center
and Mount Nittany, five miles away.
"By about the third year, a very large fireworks company called me and said, what are you doing in State College?At that point and time, I thought, 'Well, we are doing what everybody else does,' " Barker
The company asked if Barker
could make a system for it to buy, and he
soon discovered that he
had a marketable product. Barker
turned the 4th Fest over to a volunteer organization in 2001.It was a bumpy transition the first year, with the show cut short due to a technical problem.But the group has since obtained its own identity and is trained to use the FireOne system.
With more time to devote to his
traveled from trade show to trade show and FireOne ballooned from there.
Parts of the system are always being tweaked to allow for bigger and more complicated fireworks displays.Barker
recalled taking a call from a client in Japan who wanted to shoot "several kilometers of material - all instantaneously at one time."