Jun 19, 2012 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
The man who lights up the sky for Syracuse Jazz Festival lives in Liverpool.
Steve Pierce is the main man at Pyrotecnico, the fireworks firm which rose from the ashes of Auburn’s Telstar Display Fireworks where Pierce had worked with his old friend, the late Bill McDowell. Pyrotecnico uses state-of-the-art computer-generated illuminated choreography to present its mind-blowing fireworks extravaganzas.
Besides Jazz Fest, Pyrotecnico also provides the fireworks for Symphony Syracuse’s annual Fourth of July show now at the State Fairgrounds and has also done special projects for Le Moyne College, Syracuse University and companies such as WelchAllyn.
And for more than half of Syracuse Jazz Fest’s 30 years, Steve has staged its fiery finale starting in the late-1990s down city at Clinton Square.
“At that time no one had ever shot fireworks off of a [parking] garage roof in downtown Syracuse,” Steve remembered. “I had worked with the city on several projects, but they were all looking at us as if I had lost my mind when we starting to discuss Jazz Fest at Clinton Square. We actually did a test fire off of the garage roof in order to show the city that it was safe before they would approve it.”
Telstar’s crew encountered an unexpected obstacle just getting the rockets up to the roof. “We had to lower the air pressure on the trucks in order to be able to drive in the garage,” Steve said.
June 22 to 23 in Jamesville
Festival founder and artistic director Frank Malfitano, who lives in Baldwinsville, appreciates Steve’s longtime commitment to Jazz Fest.
“Great guy, Steve. His connection dates back to our first fireworks foray in Clinton Square maybe in ’98 or ’99,” Malfitano said. “We had to deal with the city bureaucrats to make it happen, but we did it. Lots of history. And now Price Chopper is in its 10th year with us sponsoring the fireworks, and it’s been awesome.”
Steve Pierce and Pyrotecnico will shoot the works again this Saturday, June 23, when Syracuse Jazz Fest 2012 concludes at its new location at Jamesville Beach. As usually, Admission is free. Smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G will headline the festival on Friday, June 22, and folk icon Donovan headlines at 8 p.m. Saturday followed by the Average White Band at 9:30 p.m. and the Price Chopper fireworks show at about 11 p.m.
Jamesville Beach is located at 4110 Westshore Manor Road off Apulia Road. Motorists may want to approach the beach from the south, as the 3,000-space parking lot sets on the south end of the park. The parking fee is $5 per vehicle.
The Jazz Fest has traveled from its original site at Song Mountain to Long Branch Park here in Liverpool to Clinton Square to Onondaga Community College and now to Jamesville Beach.
When it comes to setting up a fireworks show, Steve said, everything’s relative:
“All venues have certain good points and certain bad points. The most important thing we do is a site inspection of a venue, that way I can custom-tailor a show to fit the venue. Each site has been completely different. Some are easier, some are harder, but a lot of time is spent working with all those involved, to make sure that we have the best possible location for the fireworks.”
Over the years, Steve and his crew have gotten to hear some of the world’s best musicians at the festival.
“There have been so many great performers it’s hard to pick out any one,” he said, “but Aretha Franklin and Kenny G were my favorites.”
While Bill McDowell was originally the primary contact between Frank and Telstar, but in recent years Steve deals directly with the director. “As Bill’s heath declined Frank and I started working on a one-to-one basis,” Steve said. “The years we’ve spent working together I would not trade for anything. It’s always been exciting to be involved with such a class act.”
Fathers and sons
By the way, Steve also works as a stage hand for many professional stage shows in the area, and is a proud member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local No. 9. A couple years ago Steve joined the board of directors of Liverpool Is The Place Committee, and he now helps stage its two dozen free concerts every summer at Johnson Park.
And here’s a blast from the past: back in the 1970s, Steve worked in the restaurant business. He has fond memories of working with my father and namesake, Russ Tarby, at Murphy’s Trackside here in Liverpool.
Speaking of fathers and sons, one of Steve’s sons, Sean Pierce, is a full-time officer with the Liverpool Police Department.