National Tater Tot Day!

National Tater Tot Day – February 2nd

Is National Tater Tot Day a true holiday? A writer in Dallas, Texas, debunked the holiday in 2012 claiming it wasn’t a real holiday.

Can we be honest for a minute? Can we really consider any of these crazy national holidays as real holidays?

Whichever side of the dining room table you’re on, whether it’s a real holiday or not, I still want to pay homage to a Minnesota classic – Tater Tot Hotdish. Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize it as a real word but I promise you, Hotdish is a real word.

If you’re not from Minnesota or have never spent a significant amount of time there, you may be asking, “What in the world is Tater Tot Hotdish?” Let’s take a moment to introduce you to a simple recipe that brings back so many childhood memories for us natives:

The necessary ingredients:

Tater Tots

Did you know these were invented by Ore-Ida potatoes? Prior to tater tots, these magical little scraps from French fries were fed as scraps to the cow.

Ground Beef

We used ground turkey when I was a kid, but I make it with ground beef today.

Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup

At my house, this is ALWAYS Campbell’s soup. You can’t use generic in Tater Tot Hotdish.

A can of French-cut green beans

(because we’re classy – none of those fancy fresh vegetables for this recipe)

Your veggie of choice may be different depending on what region of Minnesota you grew up in or what your parents preferred when you were a child. I’m from southwestern Minnesota and my husband grew up in southeastern Minnesota. There, they made their Tater Tot Hotdish with a corn/pea mix – YUCK!

Shredded cheese

Something simple like a cheddar. No need to get crazy with a pepper jack.

Salt & Pepper


That’s it. It’s that simple!

If Tater Tot Hotdish doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, (or bowl of Hotdish) check out Oreida’s website ( for over 100 different recipes. They have enough Totcho recipes to have a different kind of Totcho (nachos made with Tater Tots) almost every day in February.

Savor the flavor my friends. And you’re welcome!

Want more recipe ideas? Check out our most recent Lunch Box Hack post.

About the Author

Picture of HR Manager, Beth Bangtson

Beth Bangtson, HR Manager

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. on his Day of Honor

Several years ago, I took a trip to DC to visit my sister, a US Air Force Master Sergeant (MSgt). We spent one day walking nearly 12 miles at the National Mall, hitting up all the “must see” places, including:

  • The White House (where the first Black president of the United States hopped into a helicopter and flew to Boston while we watched in awe)
  • The Washington Monument
  • The buds of the cherry blossoms as they were just starting to pop
  • A private tour of the US Capitol building with an intern from the Senators office
  • The WWII Memorial where we remembered our grandpas
  • The Vietnam Veterans Memorial where we shaded in the names of complete strangers
  • The Lincoln Memorial
  • The grounds of the Korean War Veterans Memorial
  • The FDR Memorial to ‘fear nothing but fear itself’
  • The Tidal Basin
  • The Thomas Jefferson Memorial

In the end, we got to watch the helicopters fly back overhead as President Obama returned from Boston that evening. It was an incredible day that still brings back so many emotions and memories. One thing that stands out to me is the simplicity and magnitude of the MLK Jr. Memorial. A giant piece of rock (30 feet high) with MLK Jr.’s image carved into it and the simple statement:

‘Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope’.
MLK Jr. Memorial

Growing up in southwestern Minnesota, I learned how Martin Luther King Jr. had changed the world. It was on the grounds outside of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where I was lucky enough to take some time to ponder how different the world could have been had that fateful April day in 1968 never happened.

I learned to treat others the way I wanted to be treated, to befriend (and defend) anyone who looked like they needed a friend and to never take for granted the gifts and abilities I had. As one of four kids in a dual-income, lower-middle class family, we played with all the kids in the neighborhood and befriended the children who came in and out of the women’s shelter  just behind our house. It never dawned on me that Josh was any different than me just because he had dark hair, dark eyes, and dark skin while I had dark hair, dark eyes, and lighter skin. It didn’t occur to me  that Judy might have bigger struggles than me because her tall, white father had fallen in love with a petite, beautiful black woman.

I’m hopeful that I’m doing as good of a job with my children as I believe my parents did with their own. However, I know that the world around us hasn’t gotten any better. We still have so far to go in fighting for MLK Jr.’s dream.

To celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy (this link shares history of MLK Jr. Day), I leave you with two inspiring MLK Jr. quotes:

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

About the Author

Picture of HR Manager, Beth Bangtson

Beth Bangtson, HR Manager

Winter Celebrations & Winter Holidays Around The World

There are a lot of winter celebrations and holiday cheer this time of the year. As a result, I thought it might be fun to share how cultures throughout the world celebrate during the winter months.

Winter Solstice
  • The shortest day of the year.
  • Falls in mid-December for those in the Northern Hemisphere and June for those in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • At this time, half of the Earth is tilted furthest from the sun at this exact moment.
    • Fun Fact: Did you know that if you stand outside at noon on winter solstice and look at your shadow, it will be the longest shadow you cast the entire year?
  • Other similar celebrations include:
    • The Yalda festival in Iran marking the day when Mithra, an angel of light, was thought to have been born.
    • China’s Dongzhi festival celebrates winter’s darkness beginning to give way to light.
    • Scandinavians gather for Juul, or Yule, a multi-day feast when ancient people would welcome the return of the sun god.
  • A Jewish holiday honoring the Maccabee’s victory over King Antiochus in 165 B.C., a victory seen as a miracle of God.
  • Hanukkah is celebrated for eight nights with prayer, the lighting of the menorah, food, games, sing-a-longs, and gift exchanges.
  • The dates of Hanukkah change due to the lunar cycle but typically occur in late November or early December.
  • A Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.
  • Traditions around the world include decorating a tree with lights and ornaments, hanging mistletoe, attending church services on Christmas Eve, and waiting for Santa Clause to arrive from the North Pole in time for Christmas morning (December 25th).
    • Fun Fact: Santa’s arrival is different in many cultures: in Hawaii he arrives by boat, in Australia on water skies, and in Ghana he finds his way out of the jungle to leave gifts for children.
  • Commemorates African heritage, during which family and friends gather to exchange gifts and light a series of candles.
  • The candles symbolize the basic values of African American family life: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith
  • Kwanzaa occurs from December 26th through January 1st.
New Years Day
  • Takes place on January 1st each year
  • The count down starts the night before and often fireworks are on display as the clock strikes midnight on the first day of the new year in the Gregorian calendar.
  • Black-eyed peas, collard greens and pork are commonly served on New Years Day in the southern United States.
  • Black-eyed peas are thought to bring luck and prosperity for the new year. Greens are considered a sign of wealth for the new year. Pork is a symbol of moving forward.
Epiphany, or Three Kings Day
  • Celebrated as the day the three wise men first see Jesus, bringing him their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
  • This celebration occurs in many different ways 12 days after Christmas. Examples include:
    • In Puerto Rico, children leave a box with hay under their beds at night so the kings will leave presents.
    • In France, kings’ cakes have hidden toys, jewels, or coins inside. The person who finds the trinket in their cake gets to wear a crown.
Chinese New Year
  • Considered the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays.
  • This holiday falls between January 21st and February 20th.
  • Family and friends celebrate together during this time to usher out the old year and bring forth the luck and prosperity of the new year.
  • Legend has it that thousands of years ago, a monster named Nian would attack villages at the beginning of each year. Loud noises, bright lights, and the color red scare the monster away. Today, the celebration uses fireworks, red clothes, and red decorations.
Las Posadas
  • Primarily celebrated in Mexico, Guatemala, and parts of the southwestern United States, Las Posadas is a 9-day celebration.
  • During this celebration, a procession of people moves from home to home with a candle inside a paper lamp, stopping at each home to sing and pray.
  • Eventually, the procession ends but the celebration continues with more singing, delicious food, and the breaking of a piñata.
  • Celebrated worldwide in honor of the willingness of the prophet Abraham to sacrifice his first-born at God’s command.
  • Celebrated near the end of the calendar year but dates vary based on the Islamic lunar calendar.
  • Families gather together in a large congregation, dressed in their finest, and sacrifice their best halal domestic animals as a symbol of Abraham’s sacrifice. Friends, neighbors, and the poor share the meat to ensure no one goes without during the holiday feast.
  • A five-day Hindu festival and official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar.
  • Diwali celebrates the attainment of nirvana by Mahavira (an Indian Sage), as well as the death of Swami Dayanand (a Hindu religious leader).
  • The holiday involves the lighting of small clay lamps to symbolize the victory of good over evil.

For visuals of these holidays, check out this video.

This list doesn’t come close to covering all of the winter holidays celebrated around the world. There are others such as Boxing Day, Omisoka, St. Lucia Day, St. Nicholas Day, Ramadan, etc. However, we hope that no matter how you celebrate this winter, you’re able to safely celebrate with the people that matter most to you and remember the traditions that keep your spirit up from year to year.

Happy Holidays from your friends at PMG.


About the Author

Picture of HR Manager, Beth Bangtson

Beth Bangtson, Human Resource Manager

Politics at Work – How to Keep Your Cool

Navigating politics at work can be hard. I’m admittedly someone who keeps their political views to themselves. I don’t research enough to support my political views with facts. I simply believe what I believe. Then, I try really hard not to judge others for believing what they believe (easier said than done sometimes).

This year, with social media at my fingertips, it’s become harder and harder to bite my tongue. Again, without the facts, I stay away from political debates because I know I’m not educated enough to be a fighter.

Not everyone has the same control though. So, when it comes to talking politics around the watercooler in the office or around the timeclock on the shop floor, what should you consider?  Let me help you decide:

Consider your employer brand and culture!

When you make a political stance on social media and have coworkers, customers, or clients that follow your platforms, their opinion of your employer may change based on your singular view point. Think twice before you make your political stance public. Consider not only your own reputation, but your employers’ reputation as well.

Remember that work should is an environment of mutual respect, not politics!

While you and your cube-mate may not agree on who should win the political election, your respect for each other as coworkers and supporting members of the team should not be forgotten. You will have to work together on November 4th after the election has concluded.

Walk away, if needed.

If politics do come up, know that it’s unlikely you’ll be changing anyone’s mind or anyone will be changing your mind, so consider cutting the conversation short. Don’t engage in something you know could get heated. Walking away doesn’t make you a chicken, it makes you smart.

The elections are just weeks away but until then, focus on what should be keeping you busy at work and remember to be kind. If you need more information on those in the running for office, On The Issues provides detail for candidates at all levels of government.

Red or Blue. Conservative or Liberal. Donkey or Elephant.

United We Stand, Divided We Fall.


About the Author

Picture of HR Manager, Beth Bangtson

Beth Bangtson, HR Manager

FAQ – What is MFG Day?

FAQs for PMG

PMG provides labor solutions to American manufacturers. That’s what we do in a nutshell and we take the “solution” part of that equation seriously. As a result, all of us here end up asking a lot of questions to make sure we find the right way to solve the real problem. During that process, we end up getting asked a fair amount of questions ourselves. This blog is our effort to provide answers to the questions PMG employees get asked the most.

What is MFG Day?

This is a question we’re very happy to answer! National Manufacturing Day is observed on the first Friday of October and is intended to celebrate those who proudly stand behind our goods and services in America. It was first recognized as an official day in New Jersey by Governor Chris Christie in 2012. President Barack Obama gave it national recognition with a Presidential Proclamation in 2014.

Later, the National Association of Manufacturers and The Manufacturing Institute launched MFG Day to further those intentions. MFG Day is a national initiative to encourage thousands of companies and educational institutions around the nation to open their doors to students, parents, teachers and community leaders to help show the reality of modern manufacturing careers.

MFG Day 2020 is on October 2 this year and you can learn more about it in this video from NAM.

What does it benefit?

Manufacturing Day is a direct result of the Skills Gap and about promoting trades and services to the next generation. The idea is to show people how exciting the innovation and opportunity is in the industry. Ideally, this will allow manufacturers to encourage more young people to pursue STEM education, lead them to employment in the trades, and close the Skills Gap forever.

How can I participate in MFG Day?

In one word, support. If you’re a parent, talk to your child about manufacturing and encourage them to explore a MFG Day event. There are thousands occurring throughout the month of October and more will be virtual this year than ever before. It can be as simple as watching one of the videos that we created for MFG Day last year on our YouTube page.

If you’re an educator, encourage your students to attend career fairs or reach out to local employers for tours and presentations.

Lastly, if you’re a manufacturer, open up your doors. If you have a good thing going, share it with the community and let them see it!

Additional Resources

Learn more about MFG Day and the movement to close the Skills Gap at Also, check out our webinar about myths and misperceptions of manufacturing for additional related information.


About the Author

Head shot of Josh Erickson

Josh Erickson, ReTool & Technical Solutions Coordinator

Back to School

Back to school, with two kids, in the midst of COVID-19, is an incredibly different experience.

What’s Changing This Year?

School Supplies – We’re shopping for half the supplies because we can finally use leftovers from previous years. (Que the eye roll. We reused my school supplies every year when I was kid.)

School Clothes – We’re clothes shopping on-line, which doesn’t elicit nearly as much excitement.

COVID-19 Supplies We’re stocking up on hand sanitizer and face masks to stay safe in a hybrid-model system.

Feelings About the Hybrid Model – They’re bummed they won’t see some of their friends because of how the district split up each school.

Transportation – We’re still figuring out the bus situation (to bus or not to bus – that is the question).

Teacher Information – It’s almost the end of August and we don’t know who their teachers are yet.

Remote Schooling – We wonder if the distance learning will be as tricky as it was in the spring.

What’s Not Changing This Year?

With all the uncertainty that’s coming along with the start of the 20/21 school year, some things won’t change.

Photos – The start of a new school year still means the obligatory first day of school photos all over social media.

One Year Older – Our kids are getting older; they’re growing taller; they’re adventuring out into new activities like cross country and tennis (social distance friendly); they’ll be making new friends and developing new crushes; they’ll be learning new facts about new things that are sure to blow their minds.


While COVID-19 has shifted how we think about so many things, we still have so much to look forward to and be thankful for.  Keeping a positive attitude is the best way for us to help our kids ease back into the school year, even during these uncertain times.

For each of you venturing into the new school year with your own children, PMG wishes you health, happiness, and lots of A+’s.


About the Author

Picture of HR Manager, Beth Bangtson

Beth Bangtson, HR Manager

How It’s Made – Plant-Based Burgers

There is an old adage in which the question is begged: what makes a sandwich, a sandwich? If you consider the definition from Merriam Webster, a sandwich is:

  1. Two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between
  2. One slice of bread covered with food

Does that mean a hot dog is a sandwich? What about a burger – is that a sandwich? Ask anyone this question and you’ll receive a myriad of answers. Some may argue what holds the filling is what determines a sandwich, while others will argue the filling is what determines the sandwich-ness of something. If we are talking filling, does it matter if it’s animal byproduct or peanut butter and jelly? What about plant-based meats?

Regardless of what constitutes a sandwich in your mind, it’s summertime here in Minnesota and, as soon as the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, you’ll find us firing up our grills for some delicious foods. Pretty much anything can be grilled these days, including Balsamic Honey Peaches with Feta (which, if you haven’t tried, I highly-recommend you do) but a common staple is the hamburger.

A new trend in burgers (and meat overall) is the creation of plant-based meats. Foods like the Impossible Burger or any of the products made by Beyond Meat. This got us wondering – how are plant-based burgers made? This brings us to this month’s edition of How It’s Made with PMG.

When looking at the production of these burgers, it’s important to not only look at the equipment used but also the ingredients.


  1. Heme
  2. Plant Proteins
  3. Compounds
  4. Fat

Ingredient #1: Heme

Heme is largely what gives animal-based meat its flavor.

Heme lives in globin. Hemoglobin is its name when referring to blood.  Myglobin is its name when referring to muscle. Leghemoglobin is its name when referring to plants like soy roots. The globin in soy and the globin from animal muscle are similar in structure.

Although soy root globin matches that of animal muscle globin, it’s still very taxing on our natural resources and environment to grow soybeans for the purpose of yielding the globin and thus the heme.

Therefore, we can get heme from a variety of sources, but when looking at a plant-based heme, we have to consider the environmental and natural resources it takes to grow the plant. Although the heme from soy roots is very similar to that of the heme from animal muscle globin, it’s far too taxing to grow the soy for the purpose of yielding heme. Therefore, scientists decided to engineer the soy root heme rather than take it from its natural resource. This engineering is done through the modification of Pichia pastoris yeast. To modify, add yeast, sugar and minerals. This prompts the growth of heme. This is the ingredient in plant-based burgers that provides the flavor.

Ingredient #2: Compounds

plant based burgers 1

To create the aroma, we have to recreate the wide-variety of compounds that animal-based beef has within it. In order to determine the compounds in animal-based beef and the general makeup of the compounds, a process called Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry is used. Determining the makeup of these compounds has allowed us to engineer the compounds in a lab and then use in the making of plant-based burgers.

Ingredient #3: Proteins

Texture in animal-based beef comes from protein. Additional science tests and analysis identify the specific makeup of the protein in ground beef. Once this analysis was complete, scientists were able to find the same proteins in plants. The proteins found in wheat and potatoes give firmness, chew and the ability to hold water.

Ingredient #4: Fat

Coconut with flavor removed.


Manufacturing equipment processes these ingredients through a variety of thermal and mechanical stresses. Through rapid heating and cooling, the structures of the ingredients change and blend. Machinery extrudes the product in its final shape. In this case, it’s is a hamburger patty.


With all that said, I bring back the question of what makes a sandwich, a sandwich and is a hamburger a sandwich? Does your answer change if the filling between the bun is plant-based?


For similar posts, check out our How It’s Made – Hand Sanitizer article!

About the Author

Picture of Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney, Technical Manager & Coach



Summer Reading Recommendations

As DJ Jazzy Jeff & Will Smith so perfectly put it in their warm-weather jam, Summertime:

 “Summer, summer, summertime. Time to sit back and unwind”.

For those reading this, I hope you’re finding time to sit back and unwind. But if you aren’t, I hope the recommendations below will encourage and motivate you to dig out some time.

We at PMG like to work hard and play hard, but sometimes our “play” is simply reading a good book, magazine, poem, online article, etc. Before COVID-19 hit, we started a book exchange for those in the corporate office – a give one, take one-type of setup- Afterwards, we found ourselves celebrating National Poetry Month in April. Even before this, it wasn’t uncommon to overhear coworkers discussing things they’ve read and recommending the readings to others.

As a result, I reached out to our internal team, our group of skilled technicians on assignment and of course, Google, to compile PMG’s list of recommended summer readings.

PMG Team Member Reading Recommendations

Car & Driver

If you’re dreaming of a ride down the highway with the top down this summer, one of our Client Solutions Managers, Brandon S, highly recommends this magazine.

Atlas Shrugged

Brandon also recommends this more dystopian piece by author Ayn Rand. It’s a book that dives deep into what a world would be like without thinkers or creators.

Blue Highways

I personally recommend this book by William Least Heat-Moon. To be honest, I received a copy of this book from a close friend and I just can’t bring myself to share the copy with anyone else. I’ll be keeping this one just for me.

National Geographic

Feeling limited in your ability to travel or visit new places? This magazine is a great option for exploration from the comfort of your own home and there is also a version for kids!


Recommended by our Technical Solutions Coordinator, Brent R, this book by Colum McCann finds a way to combine two things we don’t see much together these days: politics and friendship.

Before We Were Yours

According to our Human Resources Manager, Beth B, this book by Lisa Wingate was an “incredible book” and a “really-well written story” that has encouraged her to pursue more writings by the author. This is a fictional book based on real life circumstances surrounding the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and written in the narrative voice of a 12-year old girl.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Written by Patrick Lencioni, this a fictional book about the common hurdles that come about in a team environment and also provides actionable steps to overcome them. Josh E, a member of our ReTool team, recommended this book and believes it can be applied on both a professional and personal level.

Note: Josh also recommends the following:

  • Trinity by Leon Uris
  • The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  • Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris


PMG Technician Reading Recommendations

Nic S, a CNC Machinist who has completed 11 projects with PMG since 2014, recommends a book by Eliahu Goldrat called The Goal. And, I’m glad he did – I’ll be checking it out very soon! Similar to The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, this is a business book but not your typical business book. It’s written as a novel from the perspective of a plant manager and, from what I hear, keeps the reader enthralled and the pages turning!

Children’s Reading Recommendations

If you have children in your life and you’d like to introduce them to new books, or simply encourage them to get off electronics this summer, the following books were personally recommended by the children of PMG employees:

  • How to Charm a Llama by Rosie Greening
  • Any book by author Mercer Mayer
  • Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt
  • Sky Boys by Deborah Hopkinson

Note: once you’ve read this, check out PMG’s article on Sky Scrapers here

  • The Frankie Sparks series
  • Any of the graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier
  • Wish by Barbara O’Connor
  • Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick
  • Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
  • I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
  • The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
  • Shine by J.J. & Chris Grabenstein
  • Akata Witch by Nnedi Okarafor

Researched Reading Recommendations

In my search online, I found many lists of the “top” books to read, but at the very top of the large majority of those lists was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Personally, I’d highly recommend that one too. Others that I found frequently recommended are below:

  • Beloved – Toni Morrison
  • The Harry Potter – I’ll be honest.,I was completely against these but, once I read the first one, I had to read the rest! Adults and children alike can enjoy this series.
  • Make Your Bed by Admiral William H. McRaven

If none of the suggestions mentioned above seem like your thing, maybe you’ll like something on the lists below:


Now, here is where I leave you with the words of the great author, illustrator, cartoonist, and poet Dr. Seuss:

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”.


About the Author

Picture of Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney, Technical Manager & Coach






How It’s Made – Fireworks

It’s the heart of summer now and that means many things – shorts and t-shirts, barbecuing and grilling, backyard pools or trips to the beach and, in non-COVID-19 times, professional baseball games. It also means celebrating Independence Day by setting off large explosives in the sky (a.k.a. fireworks). That got us thinking – how are fireworks made? And that, of course, brought us to this month’s How It’s Made article.

Before we get to the specifics, I want to point out that fireworks can be placed in three general categories:

  1. Sparklers
  2. Fountains
  3. Aerial Shells

About Fireworks

Sparklers are hand-held fireworks, fountains are ground-based fireworks, and aerial shells are the large ones that you see exploding in the sky. You can break these categories down even further but, for the sake of this article, we’ll leave it at these three types. Regardless of the type, each firework contains key elements in various levels or combinations.

Those key elements can be seen in the image below which can be found at Key elements of fireworks include:

Metal Compound Pellets (or Stars) – These produce the colors you see when fireworks are lit.

Fuel/Bursting Charge – This creates the burn/blast of the firework.

Oxidizers – In combination with the fuel, this produces the blast.

Binders – Required to hold the mix of elements within the firework.

Chlorine Donors – These are used to deepen the effects of certain colors.

As I mentioned, different combinations and different levels of these elements are used depending upon the type of firework and intended effect of the firework.

With all that said, let’s get to it.

Below are short summaries of the way in which each of the three types of fireworks are made. As we move through the categories, each type gets a little more complex in nature and the way in which they are built.



These slow burning wands of sparkles are made of a metal compound (depending upon color), black powder/gun powder (fuel/bursting charge), and a binder. When these elements are mixed with water, a slurry is created. Once the slurry has been concocted, the wand is dipped in the slurry then dried. This is the end of the wand that, when lit, emits the sparkles. When the fuse is lit, the powder ignites. This, in response, pushes the metal compounds out, creating the sparks.

Fun fact: the end of the wand can reach temperatures upwards of 2900° Fahrenheit.


Fountain fireworks are a bit more exciting than sparklers and, as a result, have more elements as well. Fountains consist of the following parts:


Tube (made of paper or plastic)

Clay Plug and Choke

Metal Compound and Fuel

Fuse & Protective Paper

For these, imagine a rocket. A mixture of the metal compounds and fuel are placed into a tube (the rocket), which sits on a base. The mixture is, of course, based upon the desired effect. Also, inside the tube is a clay plug at the bottom and a clay choke at the top. A fuse is placed through the clay choke at the top and then wrapped in protective paper. When lit, the flame travels down the fuse into the tube (the bottom of the rocket) to ignite the metal compounds and fuel which creates the display and sparks. Note: due to the nature of this setup, it does not “launch” the firework.

Aerial Shells

Bigger doesn’t always mean better but, in the case of fireworks, it usually does. Aerial shells are the largest in size when it comes to firework types. As a result, aerial shells are slightly more complex than the others in build.

It’s important to remember that, unlike other fireworks, there are two bursts that happen in aerial shells:

The lifting charge – to lift the shell into the air

The bursting charge – creating the burst of color and sound



To generalize the makeup of aerial shells, consider that of the fountain firework as aerial shells are similar. Where the differences lie is in the number of fuses, the purpose of the fuses, the number of chambers, and the design patterns.

Aerial shells have two fuses: the time-delay fuse and the fast fuse. It might not sound like it but each fuse takes the same amount of time to ignite. The difference between the two is that the timed fuse ignites the charge/cache of powder that launches the shell. After launch, this fuse continues to burn until it reaches the fast fuse. The length and burn time of the time-delay fuse is calculated very carefully to ensure that the shell is at the appropriate altitude for full ignition. When the fast fuse is lit, it ignites the metal compounds and sets the burst into the sky.

It might seem simple enough but, to add to the effects and complexity, multiple chambers of gun/black powder will be built into the shell. These chambers go off at different times creating the many effects of light, color, or sound. Additionally, the explosive shells/stars can be strategically placed inside the tube in a desired shape (say a flower) to then explode in the sky in that same shape (a flower).

Extra Information

Now, if all that sparked (see what I did there?) more curiosity in you, I’ve linked some great articles below for you to check out:

Keep in mind on this last one: your typical 20-minute show, set to music, can cost upwards of $40,000. Also, they’ll often put this show on twice in one day!


About the Author

Picture of Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney, Technical Manager & Coach


Constitutional Grounds

‘We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…’  Many Americans do not know this phrase, but they are the first words of the Preamble of the US Constitution.  With the recent events, and responses to them, it’s clear that we as a country are confronting a major challenge in what those words mean.

The events that took place in Minneapolis, as well as many other similar events across the country, have brought our society to a point of anger, frustration, and unrest.  These tragedies are sadly not the first of their kind, and likely not the last, but they do bring to light some major issues in our country.

In times of difficult crisis, it’s important for us to realize more than ever that what we have in common, infinitely outweighs that which we do not.  As tragic as these events are, now is an opportunity for us all to take a long look in the mirror and understand that regardless of race, color, or creed, we’re all citizens of the same country yearning for peace, clarity, and justice.

Today, and all days moving forward, offer your voice and action to help those who need it.  Not because you can, but because you should.  Brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends, co-workers, and strangers all need us to be better than we are, and for our actions to speak louder than our deafening words…. ‘’We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…’.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend.

Interested in reading more related to current events, check out our post on Tolerance Vs. Acceptance.

About the Author

Picture of Dave Rohlfing

Dave Rohlfing, Senior Technical Solutions Coordinator