Blast from the past: A look back at the history of Big Bay Boom

Big Bay Boom
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SAN DIEGO — The Big Bay Boom is now a firework extravaganza that stretches four miles long, powered by a healthy budget of $700,000 — but its humble beginnings trace back 20 years, to a show with much less firepower.

It was birthed in 2001 to help bring business to the Port of San Diego, as well as assist military families by way of the San Diego Armed Services YMCA. Sandy Purdon, the show’s founder says he chose San Diego Bay because it’s a “natural amphitheater.”

His first edition of the show featured only two barges and 800 fireworks. In 2004, another barge was added, and since 2005, four barges have remained. Each year, the number of fireworks in the display grew by the thousands, and so did the audience. Today the event draws half a million people around the bay for a front row seat to the show.

To make sure all of San Diego had the opportunity to see the spectacle, FOX 5 aired its first Big Bay Boom special in 2009. Our sister station, KTLA in Los Angeles joined in, and now the fireworks extravaganza has a potential audience of 20 million people.

Sam Bruggema with Pyro Spectaculars recalls taking on the duty of pyro-show producer for most of the 20 years. The year he says was most memorable? Well that’s the year his team wasn’t actually running the show.

A computer malfunction set off thousands of fireworks simultaneously in 2012. Many still refer to it as the notorious “Big Bay Bust.”

Brugemma and his team were brought back for the show in 2014, and they’ve handled it ever since. He says that in the future, he thinks the Big Bay Boom can fill up a dozen barges to make the show all that more spectacular, but admits something that large would take a few years to fund, plan and organize.

For both Purdon and Brugemma, the Big Bay Boom is a way to celebrate the home of the brave. While design and music have changed each year, that has remained the same: the show is an expression of the undeniable joy and power of the American spirit.

Whether you watch on FOX 5 TV or here on, join us for Big Bay Boom 2020 on Saturday, July 4, at 8:30 p.m.

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