Size matters: Grucci fireworks are going to be BIG

Two of Richmond’s most lucrative companies are going to supplement this year’s usual Independence Day festivities by staging a fireworks program and festivities in heart of downtown. Why will this event be so different from the others? Two words: size matters.


Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in 2011. Grucci will produce the 2012 Fireworks on the James event. Here’s a link to the 2012 Fourth of July Guide.

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“It’s on par with what’s being displayed at the National Mall,” says Phil Butler, Vice President of Grucci, a leading fireworks production company based in Long Island, New York that will be performing the RVA Fireworks on the James event on July 3rd. Grucci will fire a “twin theater, hi-aerial program with a grand finale fired from the road bed of the [Lee] bridge.” Think that this is an excessive, if not an overly dramatic, public expenditure in the midst of a financial recession?

Think again. Taxpayers aren’t spending a dime.

“The bill is being paid by Dominion and MeadWestvaco,” says Ryan Frazier of Dominion, a company headquartered in downtown Richmond. No tax dollars or municipal funds of any sort will pay for the event. “Our role is one of accepting and thanking the sponsors,” says Tammy Hawley of Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones’s office. “We see it as an enhancement of our 4th of July events.” The Mayor announced the festivities in late May. The event originally sprang from conversations that Mayor Jones had with Dominion CEO, Thomas Farrell, shortly after last year’s 4th of July festivities. “When Dominion and MeadWestvaco expressed interest in completely funding the event,” says Hawley, “it made it into a reality.”

The Mayor’s office has been looking to create ways to highlight the downtown area. Last year’s implementation of an outdoor ice rink was very successful, and the Mayor wanted to showcase the downtown area in a similar, summertime, regard. Speaking of how the event has come together, Linda Schreiner, Senior Vice President at MeadWestvaco, says, “we are very pleased.” One reason why MeadWestvaco and Dominion became involved was because, “Richmond is a city on the up,” she says, and that they wanted to “punch the RVA brand.” People will see the fireworks from several miles away.

Perhaps the most well-known and well-attended fireworks in Richmond are held at Dogwood Dell. Richmond’s Parks and Recreation department estimates that approximately 50,000 people attend the yearly fireworks display at Byrd Park. The fireworks show hosted at the Diamond are also a popular performance on Independence Day.

Despite these two events, sponsors of RVA Fireworks on the James felt that Richmond’s most indelible aesthetic, the downtown skyline, was over-looked. Speaking of this, Frazier says “None of the [other displays] made use of our most unique asset,” the James River. Taking place on July 3rd, the event is not meant to compete with Richmond’s established fireworks fare, only add to it. That’s where Grucci comes in.

Founded in 1850, Grucci is one of the most well-known designers and coordinators of fireworks programs throughout the world. They have overseen multiple U.S. presidential inaugurations, as well as global events such as the 2008 Bejing Summer Olympic Games and events in Dubai.

Unlike typical Richmond fireworks displays, Grucci will play music to accompany their fireworks through speakers around Brown’s Island. In addition, WRIR (97.3) will simulcast the accompanying music as well as the live entertainment that will take place before the fireworks program. Although Dominion and MeadWestvaco are reticent to disclose the total cost of the event, Grucci’s website indicates that their World Class fireworks programs, the program that they will run for Richmond, runs between $75,000 and $100,000 in addition to their traveling costs. “We considered it a great investment,” says Schreiner, who is unsure if the event will become an annual event.

It’s difficult to accurately estimate the number of attending people for the festivities, although several thousand employees from Dominion and MeadWestvaco have indicated that they and their family members will attend. Of the event, Tammy Hawley of the Mayor’s office says, “We expect an overwhelming response.”

Photo by: sdreelin

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

12 comments on Size matters: Grucci fireworks are going to be BIG

  1. anonymous on said:

    I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but why is this happening?

    We have a conservation easement on the James RIver Park, yet we are allowing fireworks to be shot off into the natural environment? I am sure the fish and birds will love that.

    The City has put in a stormwater utility in yet now its letting all these heavy metals being purposely dumped into the river?

    If we want fireworks, just tune into the millions being spent on fireworks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, etc…..

  2. Dave Natella on said:


    You say: “Grucci will fire a ‘twin theater, hi-aerial program with a grand finale fired from the road bed of the [Lee] bridge.’ ”

    Well, if you can also say that this wonderful American festivity is celebrated with fireworks made in China, at least give equal due to the fact that those Chinese fireworks are set off by gen-you-ine Italian setter-offers!!

  3. Travis on said:

    okay anonymous, its celebrating our nations history, im proud to be an american if all your worried about is birds and fish being hurt then dont bother coming what do you think of people fishing and eating the fish? what about bird hunting? back in history when the english came over they had to fish and hunt for food it was a way of life. and still is. i doubt the fish and bird population is going to seriously decrease because of a fireworks display do us AMERICANS a favor and dont come if your just gonna throw in your hippy tree hugging bull. especially when Richmond was one of the first capitols established in this country….its people like you who give this country a bad name. take your non-sense someplace else.

  4. Dean on said:

    This should be AWESOME! ANYPLACE near the river will be a good place to watch from, and for FREE! Exciting too that Grucci is doing the job. Only a nit-picker can find fault with this idea! The only real valid question is, why haven’t we done this before?

    I just hope no one falls off the rocks in the River while watching above!
    Otherwise this should be exciting, and I am glad that more handi-capped/elderly people will be encouraged and able to watch, too.

    Hope this becomes a yearly tradition!

  5. anonymous on said:

    “…which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…”

    What happens to the Declaration when man’s pollution destroys nature?

  6. anonymous on said:

    it should be held on july 4th….

  7. @Travis

    Have you given a thought to the point anonymous is saying before you went on your rant. Given the obvious (fireworks…over the James River) the explosives DO contain heavy metals that have to go somewhere…and if its into the eco system its going to eventually show up in the life that exist there. Think the people who fish in the James aren’t eating those fish?

    And what the hell does loving America have to do with fireworks anyway?? Maybe those treehugging, dirtworshipping bastards love the country enough to want to preserve its natural beauty and would want to continue having birds to see and fish to eat without getting poisoned. The docks where people fish the most is DOWN STREAM OF THE FIREWORKS!!

    Travis, you’re no more american than other american, dude. You just choose not to put 2 + 2 together and see a bigger picture outside of political rhetoric.

    Enjoy the 4th…go fishing.

  8. @Travis…

    “its people like you who give this country a bad name. take your non-sense someplace else.”

    In the real… its people like anonymous who show the rest of the world that Americans DO care about something other than our own selfish bottom line.

    Enjoy the 4th…Hug a tree and thank it.

  9. Denny R. on said:

    Great show tonight when viewed from War Memorial! I hope this tradition continues for years to come.

  10. Mark on said:

    That show was amazing and I hope they continue it for years to come! People will come from all around to watch that every year. Going to have to figure out traffic for next time, though.

  11. kim on said:

    the show was spectacular…no need to travel to a larger city to see a great fireworks show! Thank you Dominion and Westvaco :)

  12. Awesome display! The smiley faces, flowers, saturn rings, etc…the overall non-stop power! Thank you Dominion, MWV, and Venture Richmond!

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