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Ready to let their colors burst over St. Johns River

Fireworks for Fourth of July show in Downtown Jacksonville loaded onto barges

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – It was all hands on deck for the Jacksonville Fourth of July fireworks show Friday afternoon in Green Cove Springs as two barges were loaded in preparation for Saturday night's big event downtown.

The fireworks that will be shot off from the barges in the St. Johns River were loaded from a packed 53-foot trailer and then covered to protect them from any possible rain.

"Water and explosives do not mix," said Danny Turner, of Pyro Shows. "We have to keep the moisture out because of the powder in the product. If it gets damp, it becomes very unstable and you don't know if it's going to light or not."

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The fireworks were all loaded into mortars and wired for the show.

Turner, who was leading the setup, said fans can expect another great show this year.

"We like to mix it up," he said. "Not only do we like to shoot the shows, we like to watch them. Our designers are working every year to make sure we get new stuff and new product. … There will be some surprises in there."

Thousands of people will line the north and south banks of the St Johns River in Downtown Jacksonville for the big show, which starts at 9:45 p.m.

Turner said it will take the barges about 3½ to four hours to be pulled by tugboats from Green Cove Springs up to Jacksonville, depending on the current. Residents out along the St. Johns River on Saturday in the early afternoon might get a glimpse of them floating into place.

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One of the barges will be in front of the Shipyards. The other will be in front of The Jacksonville Landing.

A little farther down the road Friday, the finishing touches were being put on the show for Reynolds Park in Clay County. That show, the Downtown Jacksonville show, the Jacksonville Beach show and a show in Altamonte Springs are all being put on by the same group. Even though the shows are set up quickly, the preparations have to be completed safely and correctly, or the show could be in jeopardy.

The wires are set up so each mortar will be shot off in sync with music. The organizers will be pushing the buttons from the tugboats pulling the barges, and they said hearing the joy of the crowd is the best part of a hectic week.

"When the show's done and you hear 10,000 people screaming and clapping and cheering, that's it right there -- that's almost an addiction in itself is hearing that," Turner said. "We love coming to Jacksonville. It's always a good time. It's a great show every year."