Celebrate with a bang

fireworks in dark sky

Photo by Kumar Appaiah

There are some fantastic fireworks displays to be seen in Muskoka this weekend. But with Canada Day falling on a Monday, not everyone can stick around to enjoy the show that night. If that’s you, then perhaps this is a great year to supplement those public displays and do a little show of your own.

Setting off some fireworks at the dock can be a great way to welcome everyone to the long weekend. But to do it like a boss, it’s worth doing a bit of planning.

Start by setting a budget for the project. The cost of your show can add up quickly – professionals often say to budget at least $1,000 a minute. Most professionals have long since been booked for Canada Day, so if you want to hire someone you may be out of luck this year.

For do-it-yourselfers, the length of your show will depend partly on the number of fireworks you buy and how much time you spend setting them up and firing them.

Building the show

If you buy a mixed box of fireworks, you’re usually going to get a range of types. If you opt to build a custom display by selecting the individual fireworks, be sure to get a mix that will put some of the show near ground level and some of it up high.

Fireworks enthusiasts categorize fireworks by the kind of display they put on. Ground level fireworks include wheels (which need to be fastened to a surface like a tree, and spin around in circles) and fountains (which emit showers of colour extending ten to twenty feet from the ground).

It’s once things get into the air that they get really confusing. Cakes, mortars, roman candles, rockets, and shells are just some of the different types. Some are designed to explode high in the air and drift downward, while others are visible from the moment they leave the ground. Cakes are among the most popular, as a single fuse will send up multiple different shots, one after the other.

If you’re unsure, it’s best to buy a premade package. Pay attention to the kinds of effects each firework gives, and you can start educating yourself to create a custom show in future years.

People, property and pets

No matter what fireworks you have or where you get them, safety is the first priority. Every year at this time, hospital emergency rooms see people showing up with burns or other injuries. And misplaced fireworks have started fires, even burning down homes or cottages after a badly-aimed firework landed on a roof.

Always check the fire rating the day you plan to light fireworks, and if the risk is high, then put the fireworks back in the closet until later in the season. Muskoka’s fire departments all post the ratings online and update them daily.

Besides people and property, fireworks can also pose a risk to pets. Many animals are terrified by fireworks, and will flee from them, either getting lost or injuring themselves in the process. If you have dogs or cats at the cottage, it’s best to confine them in a safe spot – in a crate if you have one – in a spot as far from the noise as possible. If you have cottage neighbours with dogs, do them the courtesy of letting them know you’ll be shooting fireworks so they can take similar precautions.


Assuming all systems are go, look for a safe location to set up the show. The end of the dock is almost always a great bet, giving you a flat, stable surface, and an easy way to keep kids away from the ignition area.

Fireworks look their best after dark, of course, but that doesn’t mean you need to wait until dark to set them up. The best shows are planned out ahead of time, which means setting everything in place in the order you mean to fire them.

Cakes are designed to sit flat on the ground, but most other fireworks need to be supported. A bucket of sand is the simplest and most effective. For a smooth and simple show, get multiple buckets – a quick stop at the dollar store will take care of that – and set everything up in a row. Then, when ignition time comes, you can just walk along the dock, firing each one in sequence.

You can put several fireworks in one bucket, but if you do it’s best to make a little cap for the fuses out of tinfoil – otherwise, it’s too easy for the sparks from one firework to accidentally ignite the others. Even the pros can get caught this way: in 2012, a technical glitch in San Diego led to an entire half hour fireworks display going off in less than 30 seconds.

Once you’re all set up and ready to go, you just need to ignite and watch the show. A barbecue lighter is perfect, but if you really want to look like a boss, invest in a remote firing system. You attach detonating clips to each firework, and then control the entire display from your phone or laptop, letting you control the show and watch it at the same time.


Posted in Blog.