Fireworks are synonymous with Fourth of July celebrations in Michigan and are a big part of many wonderful Mitten State festivals. But the International Fireworks Championship at Traverse City on Saturday, September 9, 2023, took firework displays to a whole new level.
The inaugural event at Traverse City’s Turtle Creek Stadium proved to be an exciting one for the whole family, one that should become an annual tradition for Michiganders and visitors alike.
To say the event was a spectacle is an understatement. From the first booms and pops to the final fireworks, the show was a showcase of one incredible firework trick after another, all synchronized to music.
When news of the event reached my mother-in-law, my wife, and I earlier this year, we thought, “Why the heck not?” It sounded fun, it sounded different and it was the perfect excuse to take a trip to Traverse City.
We snagged our tickets right away when they went on sale in June, which turned out to be a great move because the initial allotment of 4,000 tickets sold out in less than an hour. Organizers made an additional 2,000 available about a month later. But getting our tickets early meant we had bleacher seats and a great view of the show.
The event featured teams from Germany, France, Mexico, and the United States, who all got the chance to compete on Saturday after winning other competitions. Each team got 12 minutes for their presentations, with roughly a 15-minute break in between to allow teams to set up and for the skies overhead to clear from all the smoke.
Germany’s team, TOF Feuerwork, ultimately wound up winning, taking top honors for both the juried competition and Best in Show, which was voted on by attendees, who were encouraged to vote on their phones.
Each team did a phenomenal job putting together magnificent displays that were exciting and represented the culture and traditions of their homelands. Each team added its own touches to their displays and left fans cheering after their respective grand finales.
Germany was the first team to display its fireworks and set a high bar right away with a display that launched multiple fireworks into the air at once, drawing gasps of approval from the audience.
Each team played 3-4 songs during its presentation and Germany’s music selections included Of Monsters and Men’s hit “Little Talks.”
France took the stage next and dazzled the audience with a display that kept the fireworks coming in beautiful arrays, including a section set to the Rolling Stones, “Paint it Black.”
Mexico’s presentation was very exciting indeed and dotted with plenty of red, white, and green. Its musical selections included “Live and Let Die” as well as traditional Mexican music.
The home team, represented by Rozzi Pyrotechnics, went last and featured amazing displays with plenty of red, white, and blue, set to selections like Foo Fighters’ “My Hero”.
The USA saved its biggest bang for last, synching fireworks to Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight,” which included a huge burst of fireworks timed to coincide with Collins’ famous drum solo.
Helpful Tips For Attending the International Fireworks Championship
Since this was only the inaugural event, there wasn’t a precedent set for what to expect, but for those considering attending future events, I can offer a few helpful tips.
Buy Your Tickets Early
The initial allotment of tickets was gone in less than an hour when they went on sale. That means if you’re thinking about going, be sure to snag your tickets right away.
Depending on your seat preference, this will give you a better shot at getting a table seat or a bleacher seat — which I would recommend because, as you’ll read later, there’s a lot of standing.
Please Be Patient
The inaugural event drew thousands of people and I can only imagine what future crowds will look like. We arrived at the stadium around 5:30 p.m. and were shocked to see two long lines had already formed at different stadium entrances. On-site workers direct you where to park, but after that, you pick a line and stand.
Given the number of people, the line moved at a reasonable pace, but if you get there even earlier for a future competition, be prepared to stand in line for a little while.
The same can be said once you enter the stadium. The stadium had its full slate of concessions open, but with thousands of hungry customers all in line at the same time, it meant a 20-30-minute wait just to order. Lines thinned out during breaks in the event, so you may have better luck securing a bag of popcorn or a hot dog later in the night.
Patience is most definitely required once the event is over. Having thousands of people packed inside a stadium means there are hundreds of cars parked outside and everyone’s trying to leave at the same time.
Workers and police officers did a good job directing traffic, but be prepared to wait until you get back to your car. Odds are good you’ll have to squeeze your way out of your spot and give a courtesy wave to the person who lets you go ahead of them.
Bring Your Family
A summer night spent at a ballpark watching fireworks and eating ballpark food. What’s not to like? This is a perfect family event and there’s something for everyone. A booth in the concourse sold a variety of light-up and glow-in-dark items, which added cool touches of color in the stands and made for the perfect souvenir for the kiddos.
The ballpark’s concessions offer everything from hot dogs and hamburgers to ice cream to soft pretzels to elephant ears to chicken wings to both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, so everyone can get what they want.
Watch For Fireworks Residue
While your eyes are trained on the sky watching the show, you won’t have to worry about fireworks veering off course into the audience (these are professionals after all), But you may end up with some firework residue (dust) on your clothes with so many
The most important tip I can offer is simple: Have fun. It is a fireworks competition after all and one that will leave you saying “Wow” out loud or mouthing it at least a handful of times.
So treat yourself to two (or three or four) of your favorite ballpark snacks. Take lots of pictures and videos so you can remember the experience. Sing along to songs you recognize. Clap, cheer, smile, laugh, or whatever else you feel like. Countdown along with the crowd before the start of each presentation. Treat your eyes to magnificent displays of color and sound as you watch some of the best fireworks teams in the nation work their magic.