The fireworks show of Pandemonium IV may have lasted less than a half-hour last night, but it was weeks in the making.
Colonial Fireworks of Clayton, Mich., began planning the show about two weeks ago, starting with the music.
“Fireworks music is special,” said Greg Tremonti, president.
Once the music was selected and the length of the program set at 22 minutes, it took about a day to choreograph the pyrotechnics.
Another day was needed to set up the shells, ranging in diameter from 3 to 6 inches.
The crew spent about two hours Saturday night setting up in International Park, and were back yesterday morning to nail mortar tubes of black, high-density plastic into rows in wooden frames.
Two flatbed trailers arrived about 10 a.m., holding the mortars for the bulk of the show. The fireworks for the finale were arranged along the riverbank.
Once the spherical or cylindrical shells went into the mortars, they were wired so the show could be controlled by a computer. Lighting them by hand is too slow for thousands of fireworks, Mr. Tremonti said.
“This is dangerous stuff. You can get killed,” he said.
Each year the Labor Day shows get bigger and better, though they've had the same $100,000 budget, he said.
Hours before Mr. Tremonti's handiwork would go up in smoke, hundreds of people came downtown to enjoy the waterfront and a Cincinnati band performing in Promenade Park.
Sue Ostrosky, 42, of Toledo and Mike St. Bernard, 48, of Monroe arrived about an hour before cover band The Menus were to play and landed a front-row spot.
“Me and my friends are groupies for The Menus,” Ms. Ostrosky said. “I've seen them more than 20 times. They are very entertaining - VERY.”
Tim Goldrainer, lead singer for the band that has been together 21 years, lived up to the billing, changing into an array of outrageous costumes one observer described as “Jim Henson's worst nightmare.”
Ms. Ostrosky and Mr. St. Bernard said Labor Day may mark the end of summer for many, but in their minds, the season was over last week.
“The kids went back to school,” Mr. St. Bernard said.
Ken Hamilton, 52, of Sterling Heights, Mich., traveled to Toledo to take his children Shane, 11, and Megan, 9, to COSI's Grossology exhibit and was pleasantly surprised to find the Riverfest activities going on.
“I begged him to stay!” said Shane, slurping a snow cone.
Mr. Hamilton said they would stick around for the fireworks, if it didn't get too cold.
“We weren't expecting to stay, so we're all in shorts,” Mr. Hamilton said, but he hoped to make the most of “summer's last hurrah.”
Jim and Vicky Campbell of Curtice, Ohio, and daughter Alyson docked their 1967 Lyman wooden boat at Promenade Park and were amazed at the number of open slips.
They come down every year for the Fourth of July and Labor Day fireworks, they said, and reserved their spot more than six months ago.
“This is really quiet,” Mrs. Campbell said.
Julie Champa, CitiFest's acting executive director, said the holiday crowds typically arrive late, especially if the weather is questionable, as it was last night. But she was confident the park would fill up.