Georgia Salutes America goes on despite the rainy weather

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ATLANTA - Hundreds of people braved the rainy weather Thursday night for the Georgia Salutes America celebration at Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta.

The evening included a mix of musical entertainment, a special tribute to the men and women who serve in our armed forces and the South’s most spectacular fireworks show.

The program’s opening number featured Lisa Kelly, international singing star and former Celtic Woman, and Geoff McBride from “The Voice.”  Local sister act Von Grey and an ensemble of Georgia high school musical theater performers will also helped kick off the night.

The finale of the evening was the Centennial Olympic Park’s Fireworks Spectacular, Atlanta’s best fireworks display synchronized to a special selection of patriotic and popular music.

The downtown Atlanta show was always a go while many others across the metro area were either postponed or canceled due to the weather.

"We think that's going to be an equalizer. We still won't have the huge crowds you do when it's 95 and sunny. It's not going to be that kind of crowd. But if we have 10,000 people here in the crowd tonight, it wouldn't surprise me in the least," Centennial Olympic Park Assistant GM Joe Skopitz told Channel 2's Wendy Corona. "We like to think that it's a holiday tradition they just can't live without."

A rain-or-shine tradition that nevertheless had organizers keeping an eye on the radar.

"We had about 2 inches of rain in the last 24 hours, so we know other areas of metro Atlanta had 4, 6, 8 inches. We were very lucky downtown right here in the park," Skopitz said.

Corona also talked to the owner of Hi Tech Effects, Brian Panther, whose company was in charge of Thursday's fireworks display.

"The type of show that we are shooting is very close and very intimate with the audience, so we are using smaller products which don't go as high into the air," Panther told Corona.

And that's good, considering the clouds in the sky. Rain presents a challenge to the pyrotechnic professionals, but one Panther said they would overcome.

"So as long as we keep the shells dry and we put them into the mortars and cover them, we're able to fire during a rainstorm. So even if it's raining at the time of the fireworks, we can still fire the show," Panther said.

Fireworks were positioned around the park in 27 spots, on top of two neighboring buildings and supervised by a crew of 13. A computer is the one in charge, the one that makes the show happen.

"It's completely ready to go. The only thing that we have to do here yet is to plug in the cables to the computer, turn the key on and watch it fly," Panther said. "Even after 19 years, I still enjoy it. I'm always ready for July 5th, though."

Panther told Corona that for every minute of fireworks you see in the sky, it takes three to four hours of actual design time, not including setup time.

Thursday's fireworks were choreographed to music and lasted about 15 minutes.


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