(Editor’s note: The following article is reprinted with permission for the Palisades Americanism Parade Association. Tickets must be purchased online at Palisades4th.com. NO tickets will be sold at the gate.)
By LAUREL BUSBY
After a year without fireworks, Pyro Spectaculars by Souza will be back this summer to provide a patriotic explosion of color across the night sky.
At approximately 9 p.m. on July 4, the 20-minute show will feature an array of patriotic songs plus a wide selection of fireworks to wow viewers.
“Pacific Palisades is going to be happy,” said customer service manager Marco Montenegro. “Residents can expect an extremely fun and colorful show with all the oohs and aahs of previous years.”
Pyro Spectaculars’ employees are thrilled to be back to conducting not only the Palisades show, but more than 250 pyrotechnic extravaganzas around the country, including the nation’s largest, the Macy’s show in New York City.
Last year, their income dropped precipitously due to the pandemic, Montenegro said. More than 70 percent of their Fourth of July shows were canceled. In addition, fireworks displays for baseball teams and football teams were terminated.
“It was absolutely devastating,” Montenegro said. “It was a miracle that we could keep our doors open.”
The downturn meant that most of the company’s office staff and warehouse workers in Rialto had to be let go in March of last year, Montenegro said. There was a brief hope later in the spring that some shows might go forward, and they hired some people back, only to have to release them again in late June.
As the economy reopened this spring, Pyro Spectaculars scrambled to both hire back former employees and find new ones, since many people had already taken other jobs. Although business has blossomed again, it has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.
“We aren’t at full capacity like 2019,” he said. “But it’s night and day from 2020.”
In 2019, the company, which was founded in the early 1900s by Manuel de Sousa, coordinated more than 400 fireworks shows on the Fourth of July and another 1,500 throughout the year, setting off more than 100,000 pounds of explosives, according to Chris Souza, the great-great-grandchild of the founder.
The business started in the Bay Area in de Sousa’s kitchen, where he mixed fireworks “recipes” to bring pizzazz to local Portuguese celebrations. He earned the name Papagaio, which means parrot in Portuguese, in honor of his colorful shows.
The family’s name was eventually anglicized to Souza, but the dedication to fireworks has remained the same, passed down from father to son over five generations.
They now set off vibrant displays for everything from high school graduations to sporting events, Souza said. Over the years, the company has orchestrated fireworks at not only several Super Bowls, but the Olympic games in Athens, Salt Lake City and Atlanta. They even lit up the night sky for the 100th and 125th anniversaries of the Statue of Liberty.
But the Fourth of July is by far their biggest day of the year. Across the country in a normal year more than 3,500 technicians will be working on shows, Souza said. “We have shows from sea to shining sea—from Atlantic City to the Hawaiian Islands.”