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Passion for Pyrotechnics: The Spark Behind Abilene's Annual Fireworks Show

A behind-the-scenes look at how the annual Abilene fireworks show is put together -- the culmination of months of difficult, tedious work combined with passion sparked at a young age.
"It's a ballet -- with fire."

That's how Rodney Amonett describes his pride and joy -- the 2nd Annual WesTex Connect Fourth of July Firework Spectacular in Abilene, moved from Tye in recent years.

Amonett, the owner and general manager of WesTex Connect, explained how his passion sparked just hours before the show, while final preparations were underway.

"Ever since I was a tiny guy, we always bought fireworks for Christmas or New Year's Day, and the Fourth of July, and I just loved it. So does my son." A son who is a licensed pyrotechnician and coordinates much of the spectacular show, Amonett said.

Fortunately for the Big Country, it's not just a hobby shared between father and son -- it's a passion shared with thousands.

Amonett began orchestrating fireworks shows for company picnics, until each year, the shows grew larger -- leading father and son to where they are today.

The fireworks, linked together by colorful wires across a freshly-mowed lawn near Nelson Park, are all computer-operated -- and synced to a musical score that has taken months to choreograph.

"The music is actually what fires the fireworks," Amonett said. A three-minute song takes 21 hours to choreograph, Amonett said, meaning his half-hour extravaganza means endless hours of precise work.

Amonett said most choreographed shows, even in larger cities, run for 15 to 17 minutes due to high costs -- and while he may have to shorten or eliminate the WesTex show in the future because of similiar concerns -- for now, he's not willing to sacrifice the drama.

"A lot of fireworks shows you see will shoot a burst in the air, then another," Amonett said. "But ours has five to seven things going in the air all the time. Our show is pretty much a finale from start to finish."


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