(WBIR-Knoxville) The City of Knoxville has been planning the Festival on the 4th since January, and organizers said an estimated 60,000 people are expected to pack into downtown for the fireworks spectacular, which is back on Henley Bridge for the first time in several years.
"This year to have them on the Henley bridge, it's going to be a great view, I think," said Judith Foltz, Director of the Office of Special Events with the City of Knoxville. "We've been challenged over the last several years having to shoot from the other side of the river. And it's hard to be able to clear the trees over here in the park."
Another big challenge last year was the weather, which drenched crowds.
"Oh yes, it was pouring rain the majority of the day. But the show must go on, and we still had fireworks," said Foltz.
Thursday, crews set up about 30 tents and prepared the second, smaller stage on the festival lawn. Foltz said the main stage, located on the performance lawn, was built Wednesday.
"Really, as soon as Christmas ended, we started planning Festival on the 4th," said Foltz. "It's the 30th anniversary of World's Fair Park so we really wanted to bring the community together here."
The family friendly event will feature a kids zone, with free rides and activities, a Tug-of War contest between the Knoxville Police Department and the Knoxville Fire Department, live music performances by the Coveralls, Brad Blackwell, and Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, and the Freedom Express, a new miniature train.
"This is kind of the concept we use for Christmas, when we do our celebration of lights. We have the little miniature train that ride everybody that ride the little kids around on Gay Street for Christmas, so it's like that," said Foltz.
Fireworks are scheduled to start at 9:35 p.m., but crews will Pyro Shows Incorporated, which puts on 150 shows on the 4th of July alone, will be setting up as early as 6 a.m. Friday.
"We try to beat the heat," said James Woods, with Pyro Shows Inc., based in LaFollette. "We'll be loading the explosives onto the flatbed truck nearly the bridge at the crack of dawn."
Woods said planning for the show is similar to preparing for a large family vacation, but more complicated.
"It's a logistics nightmare, in some cases, to be honest with you," said Woods. "For the 4th of July in Knoxville, what you're going to see is in excess of about 500 shells. A little over 15-hundred pounds of explosives."
Woods said the company's fireworks spectaculars are choreographed uniquely to each event.
"We'll choose certain types of fireworks that will give us an opportunity to give the best possible pops, booms, and the effects,' explained Woods.
Experienced technicians often light the shells, while other shows are automated. Woods said safety is the top priority.
"It's an amazing responsibility that we have to celebrate our freedom," said Woods. "I don't light them but when you get to hear those crowds begin to cheer when that last shell goes off, you know that you've done something very exciting."
"It's going to be great," said Foltz. "We're amazed. The hotels are full."
Foltz said there are a couple of conventions happening, which could bring in more people to the event.
A map and schedule of events can be found at http://www.cityofknoxville.org/events/4th/default.asp.