The first Grucci came to the United States in 1905 from Bari, Italy through Ellis Island with a shoebox of formulas to make fireworks. Today the business out of Long Island, New York has 90 Fourth of July events all over the country they host including in Key Biscayne. They also hold the Guinness World Record Certificate for the largest aerial firework shell.
Phil Grucci is the fifth generation of Grucci’s to run the business. The CEO who was working with his team late into the evening on a weekend night recently took the time to talk with Islander News before heading to Washington DC for the nation’s birthday party celebration.
IN: Can you tell me about your work with Key Biscayne and how this show is unique from the others you host around the country?
PG: Key Biscayne is very close to our hearts and we have a long relationship of collaboration. Sal Camarda has been producing the program for many years. He gets a script and loads the equipment with a specific sequence and goes out to the barge and puts in the unique program and delivers it into the night sky. Each year we have the challenge of making it different and more exciting.
This year we are doing a sweep so we will have for example a chrysanthemum or sphere and it will rotate while delivering the color emitting component that is a star inside.
IN: How does the show comes together behind the scenes?
PG: The chemistry part is mixing paints and different chemical formulations and providing different colors. You get your blues and greens and basic colors and design a performance to match the movement and color and emotion of the fireworks.
It is like a sculpture uses clay and an artist uses paint or fireworks as our design. The balance of color and working with the great sky space in Key Biscayne and the barge out on the water offers so many possibilities. You can position it out in the ocean in an indefinite sky so they can make it as large as possible and take advantage of spreading it out high above and not limiting the pattern.
IN: What about the technical side?
PG: We went from displaying and lighting it with a manual torch in the 70’s and 80’s then to electronics and lighting it remotely by pushing a button in the 90’s and now the Key Biscayne performance is mostly automated based on a regimented script in a series of lap top computers.
It allows us the capability of making unique effects. A pixel burst that is trademark and gives us the ability to put a large dot in the sky and you can then connect to make large patterns. So we can put USA in the sky and not let technology drive the design. The design drives the technology.
IN: Yours is a classic All American Immigrant story. Can you tell me more about the history of your family?
PG: We are currently in our sixth generation of the business, my daughter Lauren and my son Christopher and nephew Cory work with us. My sister’s son is in the wings now folding t-shirts so he is the seventh generation. My second great grandfather started in the Adriatic seaside town of Bari, I’m fifth generation and they began there in 1850 with a single fireworks show. Their livelihood was selling produce. Our occupation is associated with celebrations and Fourth of July is a special and honorable time to appreciate the freedoms we enjoy.
I get to wake up in the morning and enjoy what I do and it was provided to me by my grandfather, dad, uncle…from generation to generation.
IN: What is it about a fireworks show?
PG: You lose track of all of the issues going on in the world. It’s a nice and rare moment when families and friends spend the day together waiting for the performance…and we can use our medium to bring them together in a wholesome time to enjoy the unity of friendship and family and the celebration of our independence.