Local graduates behind big fireworks show
Eighteen minutes. That was the duration of Saturday night’s fireworks display at Gordon Lake.
And perched atop the southside damn that evening was pyrotechnic maestro Tyler Rushing, concentrating intensly on each second of those eighteen minutes as the performance was detailed on his iPod like notes on a musical score.
The “notes” in this case were the thousands of individual rockets, or “cakes” that would fire off at predetermined times, sending flares skyward with brilliant bursts of whistles, cannon bursts and a myriad of colorful lights.
Rushing is so absorbed in his duties during those eighteen minutes, “I feel like it’s two hours.”
“Because it is public. You are not in private, you are in public. The biggest thing I don’t want to happen is for someone to get hurt. So safety is number one. During the 18 minutes, if there is a fire, or something goes wrong like a shell blows a rack, we have to stop it.
“Just watching to make sure nothing goes wrong through those 18 minutes makes it seem like forever. Me and and Jeremy are barely even watching the show. We are watching the box to make sure nothing goes wrong. That’s why I want to have a video to watch after, because I never really get to see the show.”
During a show, a pyrotechnics shooter abides to a “safety radius” which is determined by the potential distance an explosive can travel. For the State of Texas, that is 70 feet per inch of the rocket being fired. Rushing extends that to 100 feet per inch. “We had a good 500-foot radius in Iowa Park on the back side, and of course no one can get in front at the lake ... except for the kayakers,” said Rushing, referring to a couple of kayaks that strayed a bit too close to the dam during the show.
“Next year we’ll probably need to keep an eye out for them, because I think they were getting a little too close. And if they get too close, we’ll have to shut it down. And that will ruin it for everyone.”
Rushing, a 2006 graduate of Iowa Park High School, has taken the lead role the past two years at the Gordon Lake Fourth of July celebration, and is quickly making a name for himself as the company he and wife, Brittany, started two years ago.
Entertaining crowds has been easy for Rushing, going back to his days as a star on a Hawk basketball team that advanced to the region semifinals, and in track as a regional qualifier in high jump. Even when he transitioned to college playing sports at Western Texas and Tarleton State, Rushing honed his skills on guitar and eventually became front man on the popular Tyler Rushing Band.
Along with Brittany, his high school sweetheart, the two completed their Doctor of Pharmacy degree at Texas Tech University, and both are currently employed by United Supermarkets in Wichita Falls. Now married, the family is now three with the recent addition of son, Cash.
“I think it was a total of nine years, for both of us,” Rushing said of the couple’s college education that was finalized in Lubbock. Brittany did her earlier course work at Midwestern State University.
The tall, handsome, dark-haired and engaging Rushing said his first foray into fireworks came during his early days, when he helped orchestrate a light show some 20 years ago at the family’s residence on Turkey Ranch Road near Holliday.
“We started with a party, and the party got bigger and bigger,” Rushing remembered. “I was into fireworks, and the fireworks got bigger and bigger.
“And one year I had an accident with fireworks,” he continued. Cleaning up after the show, rain had dampened the fuses on the finale rack and failed to go off.
“Right when I leaned over to light one ... and you should never lean over a tube ... I took one right in the face.”
Rushing sustained an injury to his right eye, but fortunately recovered almost completely. “You can’t see anything now. Just a dot in my eye. I got lucky.”
Despite the injury, Rushing didn’t lose his love for pyrotechnics. And it was the advances into electronic-controlled firing that gave him a new path.
“I don’t handle nothing anymore. I don’t go near them. It’s all from remote and controlled from an iPad, however many feet away I want to be, that’s how I do it now.”
The earlier accident also cemented Rushing’s laser focus on safety.
“No matter what the instance ... like whenever we have to go in and clean, or turn off modules, no one else is going in there but me. If someone is going to get hurt, it’s going to be me,” he said.
Prior to forming his own company, Rushing worked for two companies out of Graham shooting shows (Pyro Technico and Lonestar Pyrotechnics) until he started doing paid shows himself.
“You have to be state-licensed, federal-licensed, and insured to be legal,” he noted. He tested successfully for licenses in Texas in Oklahoma, and worked the proper number of shows under a lead shooter as a qualification.
He and Brittany are now the sole proprietors of Rushing Pyrotechnics, LLC. Friends of the couple, Jeremy and Kristine Neeb, volunteer their services during many of the shows.
In his first few years of work, the Rushing couple have led shows at Gordon Lake, Hawk Explosion, Kiowa Casino, Wichita Country Club, MSU football games, Electra, Burkburnett, City View Homecoming, Top Golf Shows, and a massive private show in Wimberly.
Asked how long it takes to plan a show such as Iowa Park’s, Rushing said much legwork goes into each show. For the Iowa Park show, he started scripting in April. “You have to time each and every event on that script just how it needs to be done, so there is no dead time or overlap. So I’m starting in April, and working right up to the Fourth.
“It is a blank script ... you are making up each show,” Rushing said of his prep work on the computer.
And how does he work his way through a show’s arrangement?
“You take something from each company you’ve done work for, and throw it into what you do and what you like.”
The two Graham companies Rushing previously worked for had different styles. One did a traditional arrangement with one station, and one or two shells at a time.
The other company had three different stations, a middle station, “... and lots of stuff going on all the time. That’s what I like, and what I lean to.”
The setup is wireless, each firework with a module with ignitor and each one with a different key number and ultimately choreographed through software.
For the future, the Rushings are interested in taking the company further, including training personnel to become licensed to shoot other shows. Then they hope to continue building to even more more shows, and eventually getting into the sale of fireworks to the general public.