It’s no secret that Americans love fireworks, including large public displays on special occasions, such as New Year’s Eve and Independence Day.
Scientists who’ve studied the appeal of fireworks say they trigger some powerful responses deep in our brains. Daniel Glaser, a neuroscientist and science educator in the U.K., told Popular Science in 2020 that we enjoy pyrotechnics – at least in part – because they scare us.
“People seem to be excited by the anticipation of a slightly scary experience,” Glaser said. “Fireworks repeatedly set up this expectation. Each flash generates the anticipation of a bang, and that satisfaction seems to be what’s exciting about the display.”
That “bang” of the fireworks causes our brains to release a surge of dopamine, the chemical that regulates pleasure, Glaser said. We also enjoy the spectacular colors of pyrotechnics. “Fireworks genuinely synthesize new wavelengths of color,” he continued.
In addition, fireworks displays are difficult to capture fully on TV or video and are far more enjoyable when they are experienced in person. Birmingham residents in search of such an experience can find it if they attend Thunder on the Mountain – the largest fireworks show in the state of Alabama – when the annual event returns to Vulcan Park & Museum on Tuesday, July 4, from 9-10 p.m.
Thunder on the Mountain will involve more than 2,500 shells and effects, according to the Vulcan Park & Museum website. A powerful musical score featuring artists such as James Brown, Imagine Dragons and Neil Diamond will be timed and choreographed to the fireworks. It will be the biggest show that Vulcan has presented to date, organizers say.
The fireworks are launched from the 10-acre grounds at Vulcan Park & Museum, and the entire facility will close to the public at 6 p.m. on July 4 for safety reasons. Prime viewing locations include Five Points South, Homewood, Vestavia, Mountain Brook, Railroad Park and the UAB campus.
Due to growing crowds in recent years, organizers are suggesting that spectators find their viewing locations well in advance of the show’s 9 p.m. start time. WBRC-TV 6 will also broadcast the show live.
Spectators can listen to the soundtrack on the following iHeartMedia radio stations: 102.5 The Bull, 103.1 The Vulcan, 103.7 The Q, 104.1 The Beat, Birmingham’s ALT 991, B106.5, 105 Hallelujah FM, Magic 96.5, News Radio 960 WERC, News Radio 105.5 WERC and La Jefa 98.3.
For more information, call 205 933-1409 or go to visitvulcan.com.