Surprises to soar in fireworks show 

Uncharacteristically warm weather is predicted for the San Francisco fireworks show tonight, but the man responsible for the pyrotechnic display for more than a decade says he’ll believe it when he sees it.

"Last year, talk about doom and gloom — they were talking three days before [the show] about how bad it was going to be, and it was one of the best nights we’ve ever had," said pyro-producer Jeff Thomas, of Pyrospectaculars by Souza, who has been involved in San Francisco’s Independence Day celebration since 1994. "We’ve had our years with fog. That’s disappointing."

This year, forecasters are calling for sunshine and temperatures in the 70s for today, followed by a clear evening with lows in the 50s — perfect weather for the 20-minute fireworks show set to explode over Fisherman’s Wharf.

Spectators can expect some new firework shapes this year, including a jellyfish and an umbrella, as well as some surprises.

"We’ve always got a couple of surprises, but they are surprises, so let’s leave it at that. Watch close, but not too close," Thomas said.

The fiery, airborne blossoms are created by flaming colored stars packed into mortar-like devices fired by a sophisticated computer triggering system. Thomas said about 10,000 devices will be fired during the show. The tubes will be placed on the Municipal Pier and a barge floating just north of Pier 39.

Thomas promises a good show regardless of the weather.

"We’re pretty sharp. We’ve been doing this show for about 45 years," he said.

Even if the fog rolls in, he said, many of the devices will explode low enough to be seen.

But of course, he’s hoping for clear skies: "Our crew spends two, two and a half days working hard on something like this and we want to see it."

The crowds that throng the Embarcadero are expected to be larger this year, due to a combination of the hot weather and the canceled Oakland fireworks show. Port of San Francisco spokeswoman Renee Dunn said the event usually draws between 150,000 and 200,000 spectators, and that organizers are expecting attendance on the high end of that range.

Mayoral spokesman Nathan Ballard said the event will cost The City about $200,000, on par with previous years. There will be a slightly increased police presence, he said, but other than that, the event will be roughly the same as in years past.

Anti-Fourth of July offers alternative

In the true spirit of San Francisco counterculture, the Anti-Fourth of July Guerrilla Screening in the Park will offer revelers an alternative to a traditional Independence Day bash.

The party in Dolores Park offers a respite for those feeling worn down by the Bush Administration, global warming, a sputtering economy and the war in Iraq, organizers say.

The 8 p.m. event will kick off with live music from Nejla Baguio and The Mercurial Gay Beings. At 8:30 p.m., there will be a screening of "The Weather Underground," an Academy Award-nominated documentary about the rise and fall of the radical organization that waged a low-level war against the U.S. government through much of the 1970s.

— Tamara Barak

Fireworks by the numbers

10,000: explosive devices to be launched

200,000: spectators expected

2½: days expectedfor setup

20: minutes duration

4: hours for cleanup time

50-1,000: range of height of explosions, in feet

The schedule:

» The festivities start at 2 p.m., when DJ Shon takes the stage at Aquatic Park. The Afro-wigged disco band Wonder Bread 5 starts at about 4:30 p.m., followed by ’80s throwback Notorious at 7:30 p.m. The fireworks are scheduled for 9:30 p.m.

- Source: Pyrospectaculars by Souza; city and county of San Francisco

amartin@examiner.com

tbarak@examiner.com

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