It’s a “G” Thing: America’s first family of fireworks

Posted at 8:57 PM, Jun 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-27 20:57:53-04

NEW YORK (PIX11) — As the Fourth of July approaches, Mr. G gets to know the family behind the some of the most spectacular firework shows in the world.

“You know I never really thought about doing anything else,” Phil Grucci said. “It was back when I was five or six years old is when I got the addiction.”

Phil Grucci is the President and CEO of Fireworks by Grucci.

The company is based in Bellport, Long Island and has been in the family for five generations.

“My grandfather’s grandfather Anthony came through Ellis Island like many other immigrants did in the late 1800s,” Grucci explained. “So my grandfather apprenticed with his uncle [and] opened his own factory here on Long Island in the early 1920s.”

And in 1979, the Gruccis exploded to global fame after winning the Monte Carlo World Fireworks Competition.

“That gave us enough international prominence that took us out of the tri-state area,” Grucci said. “Soon after that we were contracted to do President Reagan’s first inaugural”

That was only the beginning. The next three years included huge performances at the Winter 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee and the 1983 Brooklyn Bridge Centennial.

But, as much fun as this job is, whenever you’re dealing with explosives, every day is dangerous.

“In late 1983, in November we had the only industrial accident to happen in our family and it took my father’s life and my cousin’s life,” Grucci remembered. “To this day we can’t pinpoint exactly what happened.”

The Gruccis stayed united, focused and continued to produce spectacular shows.

They were even commissioned to design the fireworks for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

“To have the country that’s credited with inventing the firework ask you to design it…that’s where the honor really is,” Grucci said.

But, all this success couldn’t be done without the help of all their dedicated employees, some of whom have been with the company for thirty to forty years.

“Phil is like my family,” one employee said.

Another felt the same way about Phil. “ [He’s] always there for you, dependent, if need something he’s there for you.”

This trip would not be complete without taking a visit to where the magic really happens.

“We’re loading this display on a barge,” Ed Rubio, logistics manager said. “A lot of programs here in the United States are actually done on barges.”

It seems employees at every level of the company thoroughly enjoy their job.

“I’ve dreamed about working for the Gruccis for a long time,” Nick, pyrotechnician said. “I couldn’t think of a better company to work for.”

And for these guys out on the barge, it’s all about one thing.

“To get the thrill, to hear the crowd after we’re done, to get the applause,” Jim, pyrotechnician described. “[It’s] like being a rock star, I can’t sing or play an instrument, this is my stage.”

“How do you stay creative?” I asked Phil Grucci. “That’s a good question. You know, you just keep pushing the envelope.”

In January the Gruccis pushed it further than anyone else by breaking the world record for the largest fireworks show.

They were also commissioned to produce the fireworks for the Star-Spangled Spectacular, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the National Anthem, happening this September.

All of the success means so much but Phil Grucci’s biggest joy comes from his family.

“Watching my children come into the business and seeing their interest now starting to flourish,” Grucci said.

So, this Fourth of July, put on your red, white and blue, grab a hot dog or hamburger and remember what it’s all about.

And while you watch the fireworks fly up and explode in the sky, the Gruccis want you to take it all in.

“You’re going to see and feel and smell something that you’ll never forget for the rest of your life.”

Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi