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Explosions on your screen: Virtual show replaces Saturday’s Carnival fireworks

Fireworks burst over the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Ice Palace Saturday, Feb. 6. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — Though the closing Winter Carnival fireworks show Saturday was canceled, the event’s organizers are planning a virtual fireworks display in its place at 7 p.m. that night.

They are currently soliciting photos and videos of the first show from people around town, which will be set to the soundtrack assembled for the closing ceremony and broadcast on social media.

Eric Wilson of Good Guys Productions was disappointed the second show was canceled, saying the first show was successful from the entertainment and production point of view.

“It went surprisingly better than I thought it would,” he said.

However, Carnival Committee and village officials said too many people in the crowd did not follow the social distancing and mask rules of their plan last Saturday, creating a potential infraction of New York Forward COVID-19 rules they do not want to repeat.

Wilson didn’t spend 40 to 50 hours on this year’s musical mixes for nothing. He put out a call Tuesday for spectators’ footage.

“It’s a chance for the whole town to have their role in it,” Wilson wrote in a message.

“I’m not concerned about quality, I have professional photographers for that,” Wilson wrote in a Facebook post. “I want to see it through your eyes.”

He said the resulting video will be livestreamed and uploaded to the Good Guys Productions Facebook and YouTube pages, and he may do a Zoom stream of it as well.

The second soundtrack is usually a general party mix, but Wilson said this year he gave it a topical theme.

The lyrics in the songs he chose will sound familiar to those living for the past year during the coronavirus, mimicking the messages and sentiments everyone is hearing and thinking.

“I want people to hear it,” he said. “I think it’s hysterical.”

“(It’s a) tongue-in-cheek salute to everything we’re going through with Covid,” he wrote in a message.

Behind the scenes of the first show

Wilson’s musical mix for last Saturday’s fireworks was all about this year’s Carnival theme: “Mask-erade.” He said it was a difficult theme to find music for while keeping the punchy, high-energy beat he wanted, but he found a way.

Songs like Madonna’s “Vogue,” Harajuku’s “The Phantom of the Opera” or Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s “Karn Evil 9” fit this theme.

He actually sped up “Vogue” from 118 to 126 beats per minute to make it faster and stitched together portions of the song to keep the best bits.

Usually the music is blasted by speakers at the Ice Palace, but they had to work out a new method this year, broadcasting it over FM radio.

Wilson said he spent a lot of time testing and tweaking the range and strength of the signal to make it reach everywhere it needed to be. FM signals work on sort of a line-of-sight principle.

He said he drove around all over trying to find the signal’s endpoint and ended up with the antenna atop a 35-foot truss, turned into a tower with an American flag on top.

The resulting signal stretched to Saranac Lake High School, down Kiwassa Road, to Gauthier’s Inn on Lake Flower Avenue and down Lake Street, he said.

Wilson said he studies Disney fireworks shows for methods and inspiration for the shows he designs. Each song is a different “scene” in his mind, with a rise to a crescendo and a fall.

Once his mix is done, he sends the music to Jeff Ward at Santore’s World Famous Fireworks, who synchronizes the fireworks show to it. Ward interprets the music — the beat and the mood — into the rhythm, color and size of the explosions.

He works backward, finding a moment for a specific shell, knowing the length of the time between the fuse lighting and the “boom,” and calibrating the electronic fuse to set it off several seconds before it is scheduled to explode with the music.

Wilson did not see the show himself, as he was tucked away in a van making sure the broadcast was going strong and emceeing the event.

“I haven’t seen a fireworks show in many, many years,” Wilson said.

Though he could not hear people’s honks after the finale from his van, he said the shouts from people driving past, the social media posts and hearing the honks on the drone footage the next day were heartening.

“As a kid growing up I enjoyed Winter Carnival,” he said.

He said it meant a lot to him to give people a show this year.

“My little Anna was sticking her head out of the sunroof watching the fireworks,” Wilson said. “She came home the next day and said ‘Daddy, everybody was talking about the fireworks in school today.'”

Wilson said if people don’t watch the livestream they should check out the uploaded video soon after it is put up, as it is hard to keep his musical sets up due to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s strict enforcement of copyrighted music on social media.

He legally rents all his songs, paying for them through a monthly service, but social media sites don’t know that and DMCA bots often flag and take down his videos.

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