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Grucci family prepares for July Fourth show in Nassau

Fireworks by Grucci pyrotechnician Kim Couchot prepares for

Fireworks by Grucci pyrotechnician Kim Couchot prepares for the 4th of July fireworks show at Eisenhower Park. (July 1, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The masterminds behind Saturday's fireworks show at Eisenhower Park sometimes compare their work to art.

They'll disclose some secrets of the show, but not others. Take the number of firework shells used in the display.

Chief pyrotechnician Pat Buffolino said, "It's like asking Michelangelo how many gallons he used to paint the Sistine Chapel."

By the time the first fireworks hit the sky, technicians will have spent six months choosing songs, arranging designs and picking the colors of the show.

"Before, you're sitting there with some big, ugly butterflies in your stomach," said Phil Butler, vice president of Fireworks by Grucci, the Brookhaven family firm that has put on the Eisenhower Park show for seven years. "And the only way to get rid of those butterflies is the first shell."

Grucci workers started to line up hundreds of mortars Thursday on Eisenhower Park's driving range, about 270 yards away from golfers.

Technicians drop each shell into the mortar and connect it with electrical wires to cables running outside the mortars.

Those cables connect to control centers that lead to a laptop computer, on which a preset program will run the show, firing shells with the music. "Once we hit 'Go,' we watch the show like everybody else," Butler said.

The backbone of the show is the music. In January, Grucci had its first meeting - "a jam session, if you will," Butler said - with the show's sponsor, TD Bank.

Once the two sides agree on songs, Grucci will decide how to choreograph its fireworks with the music. Butler said Grucci tries to mix in obvious connections between light and the sound, shooting off hearts during the song "Love Shack," for example.

Grucci technicians use a printed guide to arrange the thousands of firework shells, and Buffolino will spend time Saturday making sure each firework is plugged in properly.

But at 9:15 p.m., Buffolino and the other technicians take cover in a shelter 100 feet away and watch the fireworks rocket into the sky.

"Every show is different," Buffolino said. "The people you meet along the way, being in the outdoors, dealing with challenges . . . it's a great feeling."

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