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Months of planning for 18 minutes of pyrotechnics

Less than a few hundred people will be responsible for the security, music and fireworks display for tens of thousands who will convene at the Inner Harbor and around the city July 4 to celebrate Independence Day.

A Pyrotecnico crew sets up fireworks in preparation of the 2012 Independence Day celebration on a barge in the Inner Harbor.

Roz Healy is deputy director of the Baltimore Office of Promotions & The Arts, the nonprofit group organizing the event. She is tasked with orchestrating two live bands at the Harborplace Amphitheater and two barges from which the fireworks will be discharged simultaneously at 9:30 p.m.

The planning “begins while snow is still on the ground. … We confirm sponsorship of Port America Chesapeake, hire a fireworks company, choose music to use for the choreography of the fireworks,” book musicians and file permits, Healy said.

Healy, who has organized the event since 1985, estimates that about 50,000 people attend throughout the day, not accounting for the residents who can see it from their homes in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Healy’s day begins at 8 a.m. as workers begin to load sound and stage equipment. Throughout the day, she meets with Pyrotecnico — the fireworks company — and the bands. She also oversees the amphitheater’s decoration and the placement of media vehicles, checking constantly with the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for weather updates.

At 9:25 p.m., she gives the five-minute cue to Pyrotecnico to begin the fireworks.

“Baltimore is very fortunate to have a great harbor site and outstanding cooperation from all [the] city,” Healy wrote in an email. “At 9:30 p.m., we are truly rewarded for all of the hard work when we hear the reaction of the enthusiastic crowd … the boats sound their horns, the applause.”

For Healy, her biggest fear is the rain. One year, there was downpour all day.

“It was really frustrating,” she said. “We did do it. We had a little bit of a clearing [and set off the fireworks].”

The first event starts at 4 p.m. at the amphitheater on the corner of Light and Pratt streets, where the Baltimore band Jah Works will play reggae music until 7 p.m. They will be followed by the U.S. Naval Academy band Electric Brigade.

One barge will be placed next to the USS Constellation at the Inner Harbor and the other will be by the Domino’s Sugar factory. The fireworks will last 18 minutes.