July 1, 2007 -- With the July 4th holiday just a few days a way, thoughts naturally turn to fireworks. Who doesn't love the colors, patterns and sounds of a pyrotechnic celebration? It's a feast for the eyes and ears.
In recent years, as technological advances have pushed fireworks to even greater heights, the industry literally is exploding.
"Fireworks are absolutely more dramatic and spectacular than ever before," said Pyrotechnic International Vice President John Steinberg. "The colors and effects are matched to the music with a degree of precision previously unobtainable."
Today fireworks displays are bigger and brighter than ever before. The days of a simple red, green and yellow color scheme are gone, and in its place is a vast rainbow of colors and the ability to paint pictures in the sky, creating detailed shapes likes hearts, planets and smiley faces.
"We are on the cusp of even greater precision in producing shapes that people would like to see, almost on demand," Steinberg said.
A fierce competition between firework operators is a driving force in the cutting-edge displays.
Grucci Fireworks Producer Phil Butler told ABCNews that the old-fashioned Independence Day fireworks shows where someone used to shoot off one shell at a time are passé. "You can't hold [people's] attention very long with that program," he said.
But it's not just towns and well-heeled corporate clients enjoying the boom in firework technology. Pyrotechnics are a growing consumer business, too as more and more Americans look to create their own backyard shows.
"[The backyard operator] expects quite a bit more than he or she used to," Steinberg said. "A sparkler by itself will no longer do, when devices that fire sequentially in repetitive fashion can create mini-displays."
According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, 2006 sales figures totaled $900 million -- three times what they were just a decade ago.
Yet as sales have increased, firework accident rates have steadily declined as manufacturers have invested heavily in safety technology. Which means the men and women behind the displays can aim for the skies this July 4th.