By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
When nearly a half a million people gather in Boston for the July 4 festivities each year, they know that they will be treated to a fabulous concert at the Hatch Shell, thanks to the Boston Pops, led by conductor Keith Lockhart. They also know they will see a thrilling display of fireworks, approximately 22 minutes long, in the skies over the Charles River. Overseeing that amazing display is a crew from Fireworks by Grucci, a family-owned company based in New York. Each year the company, led by CEO/Creative Director, Phil Grucci, puts in countless hours to ensure that Boston’s Independence Day celebration is one worthy of a city where the fight for liberty all began.
Now in its fifth-generation of family-ownership, Grucci, known as “America’s First Family of Fireworks,” has performed at eight U.S. Presidential Inaugurations, four Olympic games, commemorations such as the Centennial of the Statue of Liberty, and numerous other events. It has also performed internationally including the grand opening of the Atlantis Dubai and the Palm Jumeirah Island in the United Arab Emirates.
They even hold a Guinness Book of World Record’s title for a New Year’s Eve 2013 performance where 479,651 fireworks were set off in Dubai and most recently, a Guinness World Record for the Largest Aerial Firework Shell weighing 2,397 lbs set January 1, 2018 in Al Marjan Island, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
Family has always been an important part of Gruccis’ success, Phil Grucci said.
“Both my kids work with me as well as my nieces and nephews which are the sixth generation of our family,” he said. “It’s a great responsibility but also great honor.”
His daughter, Lauren, 28, serves as barge captain for the Boston show.
“Our team is awesome. We need the best people to run the logistics of moving explosives from one place to another, safely and securely,” he added.
Phil designs the majority of the 60-80 programs the company performs each year and reviews each one before it goes live.
Although the Fourth of July is an important time for them, New Year’s Eve is actually busier, Phil said, because people around the world celebrate that holiday.
But Boston definitely is very special to him, Phil said, adding that he always oversees the performance there each year.
The Grucci-Boston connection began back in 1976 when the company was contacted by Arthur Fielder, the iconic conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra and David Mugar, the businessman and philanthropist who oversaw the city’s celebration.
Phil, who was then a teen, said he could recall that time “like it was yesterday”.
“It was so exciting and such an honor,” he said, especially as 1976 was the country’s bicentennial celebration.
Prior to an actual performance, there is a lot of travel, meeting with organizers, and setting up logistics. Phil noted that he will actually come to Boston, for example, two or three times prior to the Fourth to meet with Lockhart to go over the score and design the visuals.
While the staging may be the same, the show is different each year.
“I strive to keep the energy levels up and create something new and fresh,” he said. “Inspiration can come from anywhere – I’m always aware of the elements around me and drawing inspiration.
For every minute of the 22 minutes of the show, Phil puts in about 2- 2.5 hours to make sure everything is perfect and will go off without a hitch.
“There is really no time for jitters – you can’t rehearse a show,” he said. “You just have to everything absolutely set in place and ready to go. There are no do-overs either.
“There is so much emotion. It’s really ecstatic and beautiful. So much work put into 22 minutes and then it’s over.
“The Boston audience is very sophisticated but always appreciative. They know what to expect. The cheers of the audience enjoying the show are our best reward.”
Some shows might have an added element of tribute to them such as in 2014 after the Boston marathon attacks. But for the most part, Phil noted, the show is a glorious tribute to America and to those who have served and especially to those who have lost their lives doing so.
“Be united, go forward and be thankful, we are free,” he said. “That’s our message we always want to convey.”