Thursday, July 3, 2008 | 3:10 p.m.
Atop the Sunset Station Casino on Thursday morning, in the blistering 112-degree heat, Jim Grucci and his team were preparing for a spectacle.
Grucci, chief pyrotechnician of Grucci’s of New York, and his technicians have one of the most important jobs this Fourth of July: lighting up the Las Vegas sky for thousands of spectators who watch the fireworks displays launched from Station Casinos.
For Grucci and his team, more than 60 hours of preparation will come down to nine minutes tomorrow night. Watching him set up, it’s hard to imagine the colorful show that lives inside the black canisters with the spindly wires.
The show begins at 9:30 p.m. and will be visible throughout the Las Vegas Valley. In addition to Sunset Station in Henderson, Grucci’s team will be conducting fireworks shows simultaneously at Red Rock Resort, Green Valley Ranch, Texas Station, Fiesta Rancho and Santa Fe Station.
Each show requires about 10 technicians at each casino to ensure the fireworks go off smoothly, Grucci said.
As a tribute to American musicians, the fireworks are choreographed to songs by artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen and James Brown.
“It’s amazing the amount of work that goes in these shows. It’s especially difficult with the hours we work. We can’t work the normal eight-to-five or seven-to-four. It’s just too hot, so we have to work around the heat. We’ve been getting up at two or three o’clock in the morning and coming out and doing what we need to do,” Grucci said.
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In addition to the hours of work in the days leading up to the show, the display takes weeks of planning before the team even arrives in Las Vegas.
“It takes a good month from start to finish to plan a show like this. There are a lot of details. You can’t just decide to have a show tomorrow and wake up and do it," Grucci said.
Grucci’s of New York has produced fireworks displays around the world, including New Year’s Eve on the Strip, seven consecutive presidential inaugurations, two Olympic Games and celebrations on the Brooklyn Bridge.
The business began in Italy in 1890 with Jim’s great-grandfather and brother. In the 1920s, the families immigrated to the United States and brought the fireworks with them.
The Gruccis have been producing Fourth of July displays in Las Vegas for more than 20 years.
Grucci said putting on fireworks shows has grown into a passion.
“I love it. I like to travel and meet all the different people in different cities. There are a lot of perks about the business. I can’t imagine doing anything else,” he said.
In an already extravagant city of lights, even a seasoned fireworks company can find it hard to compete. Grucci said his shows are a kind of art.
“We get a lot of feedback from the public through our sponsors. It feels good to hear tens of thousands of people clapping for something you and your guys put on,” he said.
When the fireworks burst into the sky, Grucci and his team will see all their hours in the heat pay off.
“The feeling of everyone enjoying it is the best part of it all. And we who put it all together get to sit back and look and say ‘Wow, we did that all,’” he said.