This Local Pyrotechnician is Lighting Up the Sky

Charlie DeSalvo, Grucci’s chief pyrotechnician and producer, makes a living making bright displays.


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Fireworks by Grucci lit up the 2015 Chinese New Year in NYC (above). Charlie DeSalvo (below) is Grucci’s chief pyrotechnician.

If you overheard Charlie DeSalvo discussing his products on the street, you’d think he deals with flowers: Chrysanthemums, blooms, and bouquets are some of the words in his daily vernacular. 

But so are flammable, flare, and — of course — fireworks. DeSalvo has a 10-year-old’s dream job: He is chief pyrotechnician and producer for Fireworks by Grucci, a world-record-holding fireworks company.

“Like many young children, my intrigue with fireworks began at a very young age,” says DeSalvo, who was raised in Harrison, in Westchester County. “Although I was happy to discharge the fireworks, my mindset perhaps was a little different from other children. I was more interested to understand how the fireworks were constructed and what made them work.”

DeSalvo took a rather unorthodox (and not exactly safe) route to satisfy his curiosity. “I found myself often dismantling firecrackers and such in the backyard, and did a lot of reading on the subject to truly understand.”

As his interest in fireworks grew, one company kept popping up: Grucci, as in Fireworks by Grucci, the pyrotechnic giant responsible for fireworks at major events such as presidential inaugurations and Olympics. “Everyone knew the Grucci name and reputation as the purveyor of the finest fireworks performances in the world,” said DeSalvo. It was after viewing some of these performances in person “and being able to get close enough to smell the smoke” that DeSalvo knew, once he was of legal age to be trained in the form, he should follow this career path.

Now a 20-year veteran, DeSalvo is responsible for the safe handling, loading, and discharge of fireworks on site. A lot of coordination and planning go into those bright displays, and it comes at a cost. Displays range from $5,000 to multiple millions of dollars, although the average municipal display costs $60,000–$70,000.

Grucci will be responsible for a few hundred fireworks performances during the July 4th holiday this year. None will be bigger than the one Grucci did for Dubai’s New Year’s Eve 2013, which broke the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest fireworks display. 

Not bad for a family-owned company that’s been around for more than 165 years. The current president/CEO, Felix (Phil) Grucci, is founder Angelo Lanzetta’s great-great-great-grandson, and Phil’s children Lauren and Christopher, and nephew Corey Grucci, are licensed pyrotechnicians.

It’s that storied history — and the world travel that goes along with it — that DeSalvo likes most about working for Fireworks by Grucci. “The company always pushes its design concepts, while maintaining a rigorous internal training/safety program,” he explains, “which makes the Grucci technicians the most safe and talented in the world.”

This year, Grucci will provide fireworks for several Hudson Valley locales: The City of New Rochelle and the towns of Eastchester, Tuckahoe, and Port Chester. For more sites, visit www.grucci.com.


Do Not Try This at Home

“Although fireworks are very enjoyable and beautiful to view, they are extremely dangerous to handle,” stresses DeSalvo. “Fireworks are made from combustible compounds, which — if not handled or used properly — can cause severe injury or death. So, leave fireworks to the professionals and come out to enjoy a Grucci performance near you.”

 

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