Fireworks show to provide a finale to Gene Leahy Mall

People will be able to enjoy seeing the fireworks reflected in the water (or ice) in the Gene Leahy Mall one last year before the park gets a major facelift. The waterway is being filled in next year and developed into a different kind of park.

Bigger shells. Bigger booms. Crisper colors.

That’s what the New Year’s Eve Fireworks Spectacular in downtown Omaha promises.

This will be the last year that viewers will be able to enjoy the double beauty of seeing the fireworks reflected in the waterway in the Gene Leahy Mall. The waterway is being filled in next year and developed into a different kind of park.

Ted Kallhoff, regional vice president of J&M Displays, said the annual show is one of the region’s largest due to its expansive Missouri Riverfront location.

About 80 large shells will be exploded during the 13-minute show. The largest will have a burst diameter of about two football fields.

The fireworks are set up near the river on the east side of the Heartland of America Park.

“It’s all about location,” Kallhoff said. “We have a lot more area without buildings close by, or streets, so we can do more.”

Kallhoff is in a position to make comparisons because his Iowa-based company handles nearly all of the major commercial displays in the Midwest.

And there’s another plus. The wintertime setting offers advantages over summer shows, he said. The cold, dry air allows the colors to be crisper, to last longer and to spread out to their fullest effect. Additionally, booms are louder.

“Cool, dry air tends to make things a lot nicer,” he said. “Humidity is what causes problems.”

The best conditions, he said, occur when a light snow is falling because the fireworks reflect off the snowflakes.

Of course there is a downside to winter, and that’s the cold. Last year, bitterly cold weather — temperatures were below zero on New Year’s Eve — caused the show to be postponed a week. This New Year’s Eve isn’t expected to be nearly as cold.

The fireworks show is sponsored by Wells Fargo and is part of Omaha’s Holiday Lights Festival, which is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska.

Blue Cross will be handing out 3D glasses at the mall before the show.

Kallhoff said children might enjoy the glasses because they’ll give the fireworks a diffuse, prism effect. However, the glasses aren’t necessary to enjoy the show.

The display will be choreographed to 1960s music, and people who want to listen along can tune into Star 104.5 FM.

Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Phone: 402-444-1102.

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