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License to Blow Shit Up

May 17th, 2010 · 1 Comment · Grucci

So for the past three weeks I’ve been taking Fireworks by Grucci’s annual training class to become a licensed Grucci pyrotechnician, which allows me to accompany crews on shows and get paid to set up and launch fireworks for the amazement of hundreds or thousands. I know, awesome right?

My old friend Justin Blaser Bizzle and his fiancee Trisha Paulin Jezebel Frizingle had been working at Grucci for around 7 years (Justin longer than Trish) and ever since my stint with pyrotechnics in the Batman show back in 2005, he’s been bugging me every year to join up with Grucci, and every year I’ve said “yea I’ll totally do it!” and every year either money or bad scheduling or my own laziness would get in the way. Also I was too busy to travel often to do shows. This year however I’m coaching less and more used to traveling after GDNet started sending me to more conferences, and I was able to afford the $170 fee. Well, not really but gotta spend money to make money! And I earn it all back in one day on the job anyways.

So this year’s course was actually a bit of blessing for me in that unlike past years where they’ve always done it in consecutive weekends, because of show schedules they were forced to push the class into May, and because of Mother’s Day they were forced to take a weekend off – which worked out for me because I was traveling to Vancouver and Seattle during almost that entire two weeks in between!

So the class began May 1st and 2nd with classroom training. Both days we sat in the lunchroom of the local school out on Long Island near the Grucci offices where all the Grucci’s had attended classes in their youth and went over the big Grucci manual. Usually they use the school theater, but in another uncommon stroke, the theater was being used for a play rehearsal. Sunday culminated in a DOT test that everyone had to take even if they weren’t getting a Commercial Drivers License to operate the trucks carrying the fireworks, since us techs would still be loading and unloading the trucks and needed to know all the proper procedures that govern the transportation of fireworks (as you may have guessed, there are a lot).

The second weekend, which was this past weekend, I once again drove out to Long Island to stay at Trish and Justin’s place so I wouldn’t have to commute almost two hours both ways both days. This weekend was the hands-on part of the course. Saturday was a beautiful day, but too windy to be entirely optimal. We met at the Grucci offices and were given our hard hats. One of my friends commented on the need for such protection, but it’s not really from fireworks exploding – there can be falling debris during a show and also the locations where we work (in buildings about to be imploded, for example) require such protection. The team out in Macau, China recently got hit with a mini-typhoon and one girl ended up with a concussion from falling tent beams. So yea.

After some more lecturing on proper DOT procedure and getting a look at one of the 24′ rental trucks commonly used to transport show material, we got to head down to the field next to the offices where a bunch of chief Grucci techs had set up a mini show for us to look at up-close. We split up into 4 groups that went around looking closely at the firing panel, finale racks, grids and various boxes and cakes all wired together. We then had a short demo of some small product before breaking for lunch. After lunch we all got to load two 4″ shells into mortars and wire them up. Then we walked back to the firing shacks and tested continuity, which checks that a charge can be sent to the shell for firing and lets us know it’s hooked up correctly. We then were able to fire off our two shells. You can’t see the shells when you fire them, but experienced techs can tell what’s firing and whether it was a clean shot or not just by the sound (you have others observing for you as well)

After we had all shot the product we loaded, my buddy Justin took control of the firing panel to shoot off the mini show. I had been this close to fireworks once back in 2005 and had forgotten the concussive force you can feel in your chest when the shells burst almost directly overhead. They had loaded up a large variety of product to let us get a taste of various types of fireworks. And these were only 4″ shells with 3″ finale shells. Many shows use up to 6″ shells, with some huge shows using 8″, 10″ and even massive 12″ shells!

After the class ended Sat I hung out with Justin, Trish and others of the Grucci family (the term “family” applies to all Grucci workers) for some drunken shenanigans at one of the chief tech’s house. Let’s just say that this picture is pretty much what inevitably happens when you get a bunch of pyromaniacs together.

Sunday was the big certification test, and I was up at 9am after going to bed around 3am (yea, it was a party alright). I had studied half the manual my first day in Seattle, and the other half on the plane home from Seattle – so I had all the info I needed I was just hoping I had remembered it all! The result is I got a 91.5%, which isn’t too shabby for the first test I’ve taken since probably 2002. I made two stupid mistakes by not reading the questions carefully that I could have caught had I reviewed the test before handing it in, but ultimately that didn’t matter. The president of Fireworks by Grucci, Donna Grucci, was on hand to present us our certificates (that Trish made and Justin stamped seals on :P).

So what’s next? My next step is to tackle a real show at a local carnival here in NJ or out on Long Island. We’ll still be considered “in training” and thus not be paid, but will be working with about 14 other trainees under a few experienced technicians. After that the very next show will be a paid gig and it’s onwards and upwards from there! If I can get on one of the Long Island crews, I’ll be able to get my training show over with at the end of June.

Before heading home on Sunday night I went out with Justin and Trish to Home Depot to pick up the majority of the field supplies I would need for a show: hammer, staple gun, flashlight, headlamp, wire strippers, angleometer, etc.

Alright! I’m armed and ready to put fire in the sky!

Jezebel Frislingle

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