Launching fireworks has been his life
Published: Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 4:31 p.m.
For decades now, Norman Casse has been the man behind the lights in the sky each Fourth of July. Frankly, it's been his life, almost his entire life.
“If I told you I'd been doing this for 70 years, how would that grab ya?” he asked. “I'm 76; I helped my father and mother when I was 6 years old. My family has been involved in pyrotechnics, I'd say, 90 years.”
That was back in Indianapolis in the days when fireworks were launched by hand, and the fuses lit with a flare. Today, it's all electronic, and has been for the past 10 years or so.
Even after 70 years, he's still impressed by the beauty and power of the fireworks above his head.
But this year will be the first Independence Day Casse will miss. He's been sidelined since January with continuing ailments. His pyrotechnics company, Skylighters of Florida, now is in the hands of his son, John.
The company produces most of the shows in the area, Casse said, including the ones at the University of Florida, Micanopy, Circle Square at On Top of the World, Keystone Heights, Ocala City Hall, Williston and Cedar Key.
For 40 years, Casse has been the fireworks guru behind Ocala's God and Country Day display.
But he emphasized Skylighters doesn't assemble any of the shells his crew lobs into the darkling skies. One reason is safety. “It's hazardous mixing chemicals you don't know anything about,” he said.
Another is simple economics. “I can't build a shell for what I can buy it from China,” Casse added.
The typical 20-minute display burns through about 3,000 shells of varying designs and effects; a fifth to a quarter of those shells generally are launched in the last minute to create the grand finale.
“More than 90 percent of the people couldn't tell the difference whether your show is good or bad,” he said. “But as long as you have a good grand finale, it's a success.”
Rick Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 867-4154.