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Mall serves up South's largest fireworks show

BUFORD - With the flip of a switch tonight, Stacy Tyson will command a 15-minute pyrotechnic display that is one of the largest in the Southeast.

It will have taken her and a work crew three sweat-drenched days and several bottles of Gatorade to set up the fireworks show that draws thousands of spectators to the Mall of Georgia's Fourth of July celebration.

When it's done, more than 1,200 firework shells will have burst in the sky, with the pretty patterns and bright colors drawing "ooohs" and "aaahs" from the thousands of spectators below.

"It is the biggest adrenaline rush you can get without drugs," Tyson said of controlling the mini-cannons that shoot the fireworks up to 600 feet in the air.

On Monday afternoon she was in a dusty field at the rear of the mall, overseeing three workers as they loaded large tubes with the Chinese-made fireworks.

The tubes were arranged in long wooden racks, and to protect them from rain, workers covered each one with heavy plastic after they were done.

Cables still had to be extended from each tube to a green box full of switches that Tyson will use to set off the array of fireworks.

While spectators will see the bursts of color and hear and feel the fireworks as they explode in the sky, Tyson sitting 100 feet from the launch site will also see flames shoot 6 feet from the tubes and feel each one leave its canister.

Josh Zimmer, marketing director for the mall, said about 150,000 people visited the Mall of Georgia's Fabulous Fourth events last year.

"The event gets bigger and bigger each year," Zimmer said.

This year the festivities begin at 2 p.m. with free concerts in the mall's village area and a kid's zone with carnival games and inflatables in a nearby parking lot. The fireworks begin around 8:45 p.m.

Afterward, "Pirates of the Caribbean" will be shown on a giant outdoor movie screen in the parking lot.

A new addition to the sixth-annual event, three shuttles will help ferry people from their vehicles to the main event area.

Tyson, a North Carolina resident who followed her father into the fireworks display business, said her favorite firework is the brocade crown.

"It looks like a crown in the sky," said Tyson, who is one of two lead technicians for the mall display, and works for Pennsylvania-based Pyrotechnico. "It's like 24-karat gold falling from the sky."

Other charges being loaded into the launch tubes bore names like "Green falling leaves with tail," which as the name implies looks like green leaves falling from the sky, and "Crackling willow with tail," Tyson said.

Although mall officials refused to say how much the display costs mall owner Simon Properties, Tyson said based on the number of firework shells the show is the largest in the Southeast.

Visit www.mallof

georgia.com for more information on the Mall of Georgia event.