The first of eight teams to fire at the Champion of Champions competition was Happy Dragon Fireworks, winners back in 1999. When we arrived on site to see them setting up it was already late in the afternoon and their whole display area - like the other teams - was full of an incredible array of pyro.

Going first meant they were situated closest to the land end of the breakwater out of the four teams firing on the first night (with the other four to fire the following night). However it was no less cool and windy, the Atlantic might look nice but has a habit of greeting you with a biting wind and frequent showers.

Weather aside, Plymouth provides one of the best firing venues possible because it is surrounded by a massive fall-out area - the sea. Happy Dragon were making full use of this with a huge amount of angled candle sequences. Creative effects are also essential to impress the judges - this is certainly not an event just to throw up a load of big shells. Naturally we tiptoed through the many miles of cabling to grab a closer look...

Fanned effects and LOTS of wiring!

Click on any thumbnail to view the full sized image:

1: General view of the firing area 2: Looking through shell racks 3: Sorting out the hundreds of wires 4 & 5: Flying saucers!
Angled candle and single shot sequences 7: Sand bags holding down pyro

The Happy Dragon firing area was dominated by something we had not previously encountered at a display: A massive metallic ring, resembling a silver catherine wheel.

Setting up the ring

Inside the ring we caught up with Nathan Winter. He explained it was to be suspended from a crane and then fire single shot sequences in various colours. Talking about this and their display in general he hinted at a creative show concentrating on new colour effects including magentas, peach, lime, oranges and champagnes.

1: Another view of the firing area 2: More angled candles 3: Various effects 4: View over some shell racks
The ring! 6: Nathan (right) at work on the ring's wiring 7: View from inside the ring

Rigging a show with lots of single shot sequences is always labour intensive and you can see from these photos how much wiring there was here. The ring contained sets of 16 candles around the perimeter facing outwards with further sequences angled towards the centre.

The ring in position - wrongly assumed by the crowd to be a wheel that would spin

Hoisted up by the crane the ring looked impressive. Needless to say the effects in displays like this are electrically fired and I don't think a portfire and a ladder was a viable plan B here! It really created a sense of anticipation with the crowd - many of whom assumed it was going to spin (now that WOULD have been impressive!). Check out the photos below for a closer look at the ring.

1 - 7: Various parts of the ring and the pyro attached to it

Over to the spectator area and I can say with certainty the display lived up to expectations. The single shot sequences from the ring were pure pyro magic and received a very enthusiastic response from the crowd. Backing this up was ten minutes of really well thought out effects featuring beautiful colours and another crowd pleaser - flying saucers. Well done to the Happy Dragon team whose efforts were rewarded with third place overall!

We'd like to say a big thanks to Nathan and the Happy Dragon crew for kindly allowing us on site.

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