Things I Can't Live Without: Marcy Zambelli
Occupation: CEO of Zambelli Fireworks, the third generation to run the $12 million family business, founded in 1893.
Age and home: 48, Boca Raton, Fla. Employees: 50 full-time and up to 2,500 "shooters" during the July 4th high season, divided among offices in Florida, California, and Pennsylvania.
By the numbers: A typical 30-minute display, which costs from $25,000 to $30,000, requires 1,500 pounds of fireworks.
Schedule: The Zambellis -- Marcy's three sisters, brother, mother, and brother-in-law are involved -- put on 3,500 shows a year, including more than 1,500 during the week of July 4th. They also produce the annual Kentucky Derby Festival opening show, viewed by more than a million people. "From May onward, we work seven days a week," says Zambelli. "Our father [George "Boom Boom" Zambelli] passed away last Christmas. Ironically, that was the only day he ever took off every year. When we buried him, we put a business card in his hand."
Fleeting thrill: "Shells are still made by hand. It takes three weeks to make one; the rise time is three to four seconds, and it lasts three to four seconds. Then it's gone."
Company secrets: The family's fireworks secrets -- jotted down in a little black book that founder Antonio Zambelli brought from Italy -- are stored in a safe at the company's Pennsylvania headquarters.
Strangest request: "A 22-year-old wanted to prepay for a fireworks show that would be done at his funeral. He wanted to be cremated and his ashes put in the shells." The Zambellis declined.
Favorite firework: The Crackling Palm Tree. "It sizzles and crackles as its tail leaves the mortar."
Things I Can't Live Without
Samsung Camera Phone SPH-a620/ VGA1000, $260: "I can take pictures on a site. When we go to meet with a client or the fire department, you have to do a site review and inspection."
Bushnell Laser Rangefinder Yardage Pro 500: "Regulations say that you have to be 70 feet from the crowd for every inch of your firework shell's diameter. This lets you measure how close you are."
...and What I Covet
Porsche Carrera GT Convertible, $440,000: "Carreras and fireworks bring similar images to mind: excitement, beauty in motion, and just plain fun."