Las Vegas Sun

January 22, 2018

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Fourth of July:

Technicians’ toil to spell fireworks spectacular

Station Casinos puts finishing touches on annual celebration


Justin M. Bowen

Chris Siple of Grucci’s of New York sets up fireworks on the Texas Station parking garage Friday in preparation for Station Casinos’ nine-property fireworks show on Saturday.

Station Casinos fireworks preparations

Grucci's of New York technicians set up fireworks on the Texas Station parking garage Friday in preparation for Station Casinos' nine-property fireworks show on Saturday. Launch slideshow »

Fourth of July coverage

Station’s Fourth of July

  • When: Saturday, July 4 at 9:30 p.m.
  • Where: Aliante Station, Boulder Station, Fiesta Henderson, Fiesta Rancho, Green Valley Ranch, Palace Station, Red Rock Resort, Santa Fe Station, Sunset Station and Texas Station
  • Best Place to View: Aliante Station – Hotel valet/parking lot, Boulder Station – Parking garage rooftop, Fiesta Henderson – Parking garage rooftop, Fiesta Rancho – Parking garage rooftop, Green Valley Ranch – Backyard pool area, Palace Station – Parking garage rooftop (south parking garage connected to casino entrance), Red Rock Resort – Pool area and amphitheater, Santa Fe Station – Parking garage rooftop (north parking garage) and the race and sports book patio, Sunset Station – Amphitheater, Texas Station – Parking lot C off Rancho entrance
  • Tune into FM stations 106.5, 95.5, 101.9, 93.1, 92.3, 97.1 or AM stations 1100, 920 or 1460 to hear music to go along with the fireworks display.

For Grucci’s of New York, 1,500 man-hours will boil down to a mere nine minutes Saturday night.

The first family of fireworks has spent the last four days atop nine Station Casino rooftops in the hottest temperatures of the year preparing for the Fourth of July fireworks display.

The fireworks displays will begin at 9:30 p.m. Saturday and will be visible throughout the valley -- from Henderson to North Las Vegas to the Summerlin area -- with firing locations at Aliante Station, Boulder Station, Fiesta Henderson, Green Valley Ranch, Palace Station, Red Rock Resort, Santa Fe Station, Sunset Station and Texas Station.

As a tribute to American musicians, the nine-minute show is choreographed to songs by Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Stevie Wonder and others.

The Fourth of July spectacle is at the hands of Grucci’s 37 pyrotechnicians, led by chief pyrotechnicians Jim Grucci and Ian McKenzie.

McKenzie said the team tries to stagger its days to escape the Las Vegas heat, getting up at 2 a.m. and ending the day at 11 a.m., before the hottest part of the day rolls in.

“We’re a lot more productive when we aren’t staggering and passing out,” McKenzie joked.

For the Grucci team, the planning and preparation doesn’t begin on the casino rooftops. The nine shows take 120 hours to choreograph. This year Station Casinos has doubled the number of fireworks at each show and added another venue (Aliante Station), which McKenzie said is always good for business.

McKenzie said while Station has doubled the fireworks display, Grucci’s has seen some cutbacks from other customers this year.

“It’s understandable but it’s too bad. We’ve had shows canceled because people don’t want to seem too ostentatious -- but at the same time, like Station had expressed, we know people need something to celebrate,” McKenzie said.

The family fireworks business began in Italy in 1890 with two Grucci family members. In the 1920s, the families came to the United States and brought the fireworks with them.

Since then, Grucci’s has produced shows at some significant events, including seven consecutive presidential inaugurations, several Olympic Games, and most recently put on its largest firework show yet at Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah. The family has been doing fireworks displays in Las Vegas for more than 20 years.

“The flashing lights of Vegas are no detriment for people who do light shows,” McKenzie said. “There really is something to be said for the boom. You have to notice it.”

McKenzie, who is in his 10th year with Grucci’s, has seen the world from a behind-the-scenes perspective -- a view he said he might not see otherwise. Despite the heat, he said he enjoys returning to Las Vegas for the Fourth of July.

“The only way to describe it is it’s like being in the circus,” McKenzie said. “You get the call, ‘You want to do a show in Vegas?’ Sure. You put a pause on your normal life and hop on a plane. Do something completely surreal in a place like Vegas that’s pretty surreal already. Then pack up, go back and you wake up the next morning like it was all a strange dream.”

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