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ITALIAN-AMERICANS AND FIREWORKS

On New Year's Eve we wait for the famous ball drop in New York City's Times Square. In Italy people eat lentils, many wear red underwear for additional luck, and at the stroke of midnight, after kissing each other, they make a racket while watching fireworks illuminate the winter sky. Although fireworks were invented in 7th century China, Italians became the first Europeans to produce them. In the US, the Grucci and the Zambelli families have been leading the industry for quite some time.

THE GRUCCIS OF NEW YORK 

Angelo Lanzetta started making firework in 1850. In 1870, he brought the family's pyrotechnic artistry to Elmont, Long Island, New York After Angelo's death in 1899, his son Anthony carried on the family business and in 1923 brought his nephew, Felix Grucci, Sr., to serve as an apprentice. Over the next three decades, Felix Grucci, Sr. gained a reputation as a master of his art. He developed the stringless shell, a major landmark innovation that improved fireworks safety by eliminating burning fallout, the firework industry's greatest safety problem.

The Grucci's became the first American family to win the Gold Medal for the United States at the annual Monte Carlo International Fireworks Competition beating other competitors from Denmark, France, Italy and Spain.

ZAMBELLI FIREWORKS 

Fireworker Antonio Zambelli ventured from Italy in 1893 to establish the Zambelli Fireworks Manufacturing Company in New Castle, Pennsylvania, which was to become a center for America's fireworks industry.

Building on the grand tradition Antonio began, subsequent generations of Zambellis became famous worldwide for setting the industry standard in design and technology.

Today, that Zambelli family heritage continues under the guidance of Antonio's grandson, George Zambelli Jr., M.D.