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updated: 6/29/2013 7:22 PM

Blazing smiley face highlights Macy fireworks show

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  • Mortars placed on a barge docked in the Staten Island borough of New York are in front of the hazy lower Manhattan skyline on Saturday,

      Mortars placed on a barge docked in the Staten Island borough of New York are in front of the hazy lower Manhattan skyline on Saturday,
    Associated Press

  • A worker loads shells into mortars on a barge docked Saturday in the Staten Island borough of New York.

      A worker loads shells into mortars on a barge docked Saturday in the Staten Island borough of New York.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- What's new this Fourth of July?

A happy face with a wink, exploding over New York City as part of Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks 2013 -- the nation's biggest display.

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That's one of the spectacles being prepared to light up the sky on Thursday. Forty thousand shells were being loaded onto four barges in the city's Staten Island borough on Saturday in preparation for the massive display.

The exact location is kept secret for security reasons.

The barges will sit on the Hudson River for the show to be seen by an estimated 3 million people watching live in New York and New Jersey, plus millions more on television. Grammy-award winning musician Usher has created the soundtrack.

Show co-designer Gary Souza said organizers have scoured the world to find and purchase the most original new fireworks -- from China and Portugal to Spain, Malta and Brazil.

The theme for this year's 25-minute show is "It Begins With A Spark."

The barges are to be set up on the river between Manhattan's West 24th and 42nd streets, with fireworks shooting about 1,000 feet into the air.

The plans began a year ago in Rialto, Calif., where Souza is part of the current generation of a family that runs Pyro Spectaculars by Souza.

Sixty pyrotechnicians worked on Staten Island all weekend before the holiday to prepare the high-tech digital animation.

This year, two other novelties will be a jellyfish discovered in China that explodes with a whistling sound, and bursting butterflies.

From midtown Manhattan, the Empire State Building will play along, showing off its recently upgraded LED lighting along with the fireworks.

Andy Lewis has been volunteering for the fireworks for the past 26 years.

"It's the best show in the world," said the firefighter from Las Vegas as he and the rest of the crew sat in Staten Island under a tent for lunch, enjoying the view of the New York City skyline across New York Harbor.

The first explosions are scheduled to go off at 9:25 p.m. on Thursday.

And despite every possible precaution taken to ensure safety, "anything can happen," said Souza. "It's a dangerous business." Each year, he added, his mother has white-knuckled her way through the spectacle.

Safety is paramount, said executive producer Amy Kule.

After that, she said, "it's about how to make it as entertaining as possible, how to make it bigger and better -- playing with science and technology."

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