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California team to compete in Macao's global fireworks smackdown

September 12, 2012|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • The International Fireworks Display Contest in Macao continues on Saturday evenings through the month of September and ends Oct. 1.
The International Fireworks Display Contest in Macao continues on Saturday… (Macao Government Tourism…)

"Pyrotourism" is a term Paul Souza throws out to describe events that draw particular travelers. "These are people who go to fireworks festivals," says Souza, a big player in the big bang world. "This style of festival is very common on the global scale, just not on the American scale." 

Rialto-based Pyro Spectaculars by Souza will represent the United States in the International Fireworks Display Contest that began Saturday in the Chinese administrative region of Macao, best known for its flashy casinos and gambling. Companies from 10 countries, including Thailand, China, Italy and others, are scheduled to dazzle and blast their way to a world title during five evenings in September and October.

Souza and company have created spectacular pyrotechnic shows for the Golden Gate Bridge's 75th anniversary on Memorial Day, several Super Bowls and Olympic Games, and other high-profile events.

His entry in the Macao competition will be a 20-minute show called "Love Is All You Need." In the display, fireworks are synchronized to the music in a show he says will be elegant but have lots of bang too. "It's an American tradition: We're loud and boisterous as a culture," he says. "It will be unmistakably American, even though I'm using the Beatles soundtrack."

And it's not as though he can change his mind either. The contest invitation arrived last January, and he has spent the last nine months planning the show, packing firepower and equipment, and then loading it all onto a container ship bound for Macao.

Displays at the 24th annual competition will be judged by how high fireworks go, how loudly they explode and spread across the night sky, how colorful they are and how the show looks overall, a Macao Government Tourist Office spokeswoman says. Fireworks are shot off at the Macao Tower and can be seen anywhere along the waterfront.

The contest started Saturday and is held on the following Saturdays in September with the final day and judging on Oct. 1. Souza and his technical team plan to spend about a week in Macao to prepare for their turn on Sept. 29. Last year, a Chinese company took the top spot, and a Japanese company won in 2009 and 2010.

"The goal is to look good for our countrymen and for our company," Souza says, "and to maintain our high level of performance standards, to show that off to the people of Macao and to our colleagues around the world."

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