National Mall fireworks show promises to be biggest ever, thanks to donations

President Donald Trump’s inaugural July 4 “Salute to America” on the National Mall aimed to be big — but now it’s shooting to be the biggest fireworks display ever held in the D.C. region, thanks to donations from two of the U.S.’ biggest pyrotechnic companies.

Ohio-based Phantom Fireworks and New York-based Fireworks by Grucci are joining forces to turn the night sky over Washington into a fireworks extravaganza like never seen before.

Phantom and Grucci’s pyrotechnic donations are valued at $750,000 cost, but would rack up a retail bill of well over $1 million, CEO Bruce Zoldan told WTOP.

But don’t worry: it won’t cost taxpayers a dime, Phantom said.

Zoldan has been selling fireworks for close to 50 years. It started when his dad bought them to use in show for neighborhood friends.

“Unfortunately, his son, named Bruce, started to sell them to … my friends in the neighborhood,” Zoldan told WTOP.

A love of fireworks from a young age spurred not only Zoldan’s business motivations but also his desire to help create the biggest Fourth of July spectacle ever seen in the nation’s capital.

“I saw the eyes of everyone when fireworks were ignited and how happy they were on the Fourth of July and the neighborhood would gather at our house and everybody would have a great time. And when the show was over, everybody was clapping. I couldn’t wait until the next Fourth of July,” Zoldan said.

In this July 4, 2018, file photo, fireworks explode over Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol, along the National Mall in Washington, during the Fourth of July celebration. President Donald Trump has stated he wants to reshape the annual event into a “Salute to America” that would feature Trump himself speaking from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
In this July 4, 2018, file photo, fireworks explode over Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol, along the National Mall in Washington, during the Fourth of July celebration. President Donald Trump has stated he wants to reshape the annual event into a “Salute to America” that would feature Trump himself speaking from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File) (AP/Jose Luis Magana)
Fireworks illuminate the sky over the U.S. Capitol building and the Washington Monument during Fourth of July celebrations, on Friday, July 4, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Fireworks illuminate the sky over the U.S. Capitol building and the Washington Monument during Fourth of July celebrations, on Friday, July 4, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) (AP/Evan Vucci)
Fireworks explode over Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol, along the National Mall in Washington, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, during the Fourth of July celebration. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Fireworks explode over Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol, along the National Mall in Washington, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, during the Fourth of July celebration. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) (AP/Jose Luis Magana)
Fireworks explode over the National Mall for Fourth of July celebrations in Washington, photographed from Arlington, Va., on Saturday, July 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Fireworks explode over the National Mall for Fourth of July celebrations in Washington, photographed from Arlington, Va., on Saturday, July 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
Fireworks explode over Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol along the National Mall in Washington, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, during the Fourth of July celebration. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Fireworks explode over Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol along the National Mall in Washington, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, during the Fourth of July celebration. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) (AP/Jose Luis Magana)
Fireworks burst over the Memorial Bridge and Lincoln Memorial during Independence Day celebrations on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, July 4, 2017. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
Fireworks burst over the Memorial Bridge and Lincoln Memorial during Independence Day celebrations on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, July 4, 2017. (AP Photo/J. David Ake) (AP/J. David Ake)
Fireworks light the sky over the U.S. Capitol, left, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial during Fourth of July celebrations, Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Washington. Surrounded by scaffolding, the Washington Monument is closed for repairs after an earthquake in 2011. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Fireworks light the sky over the U.S. Capitol, left, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial during Fourth of July celebrations, Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Washington. Surrounded by scaffolding, the Washington Monument is closed for repairs after an earthquake in 2011. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (AP/Alex Brandon)
Fireworks explode over the National Mall for Fourth of July celebration in Washington as seen from "Top of the Town," a reception and conference facility in Arlington, Va., on Saturday, July 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Fireworks explode over the National Mall for Fourth of July celebration in Washington as seen from “Top of the Town,” a reception and conference facility in Arlington, Va., on Saturday, July 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
Fireworks burst over the Memorial Bridge during Independence Day celebrations on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, July 4, 2017. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
Fireworks burst over the Memorial Bridge during Independence Day celebrations on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, July 4, 2017. (AP Photo/J. David Ake) (AP/J. David Ake)
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In this July 4, 2018, file photo, fireworks explode over Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol, along the National Mall in Washington, during the Fourth of July celebration. President Donald Trump has stated he wants to reshape the annual event into a “Salute to America” that would feature Trump himself speaking from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
Fireworks illuminate the sky over the U.S. Capitol building and the Washington Monument during Fourth of July celebrations, on Friday, July 4, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Fireworks explode over Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol, along the National Mall in Washington, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, during the Fourth of July celebration. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Fireworks explode over the National Mall for Fourth of July celebrations in Washington, photographed from Arlington, Va., on Saturday, July 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Fireworks explode over Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol along the National Mall in Washington, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, during the Fourth of July celebration. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Fireworks burst over the Memorial Bridge and Lincoln Memorial during Independence Day celebrations on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, July 4, 2017. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
Fireworks light the sky over the U.S. Capitol, left, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial during Fourth of July celebrations, Thursday, July 4, 2013 in Washington. Surrounded by scaffolding, the Washington Monument is closed for repairs after an earthquake in 2011. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Fireworks explode over the National Mall for Fourth of July celebration in Washington as seen from "Top of the Town," a reception and conference facility in Arlington, Va., on Saturday, July 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Fireworks burst over the Memorial Bridge during Independence Day celebrations on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, July 4, 2017. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

According to Zoldan, they made the donation offer in late February/early March. There was some back and forth negotiation about the venue and if they were even allowed to donate fireworks to the National Park Service and Department of the Interior.

“We finally finalized everything in recent weeks,” he said.

The donation itself stems from a friendship between Zoldan and Phil Grucci — both of whom sit on the board of directors for the American Pyrotechnics Association.

“We talked after we heard the president announced that he wanted to have a major fireworks show celebration in Washington, D.C.,” Zoldan said. “And, outside of politics, we said we would like to do it as part of the industry, both of us, to donate what we think will be the largest show in Washington, D.C. history.”

Phantom is the biggest consumer retailer of fireworks in the U.S. (“Lighting up backyards of America, from coast to coast!” is its motto), whereas Grucci are professionals in the display business.

“They’ve done some of the largest shows ever in the world,” Zoldan said. “They’ve broken some Guinness World Records.”

He also said the Phantom-Grucci show has 10 times the budget, all donated, compared to the annual Capitol Fourth fireworks event.

“Again, we’re doing this because we want it to be the largest show in the history of Washington, D.C.,” Zoldan told WTOP. “Much larger than the bicentennial show.”

National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst confirmed as much in an interview with the Washington Examiner.

“This is going to eclipse that tremendously,” Litterst told the outlet.

Zoldan told WTOP he has no doubts about it. He said the feds have historically only paid about $75,000 for the annual show (WTOP has not been able to independently confirm that figure). “Just our costs alone are $750,000 — 10 times larger — and we’re donating it.”

“Phil Grucci has obviously designed the show. He’s telling me it’ll be a mile long, and fireworks going in the air,” Zoldan added. “I know the work that Phil does. We’re obviously providing the pyrotechnics, and he’s doing the expertise on the shooting end of it and the logistics.”

“Certainly if anybody lives in the area or anybody wants to travel to Washington, D.C., on the Fourth of July, they’re going to see something … unbelievable,” he added.

Since the fireworks site has been moved to West Potomac Park, revelers will be able to gather around the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall. But even if you can’t get that close, Zoldan said it the show will be visible for miles — depending on geography and obstructions, of course.

“I definitely believe you can be a significant distance away, miles away, and still be able to see it. … You should be able to see this from a long, long distance away,” he told WTOP.

Zoldan also mentioned that there will be TV coverage, at least on PBS, and possibly other stations.

As far as what to expect, Zoldan said Grucci will include new, innovative pyrotechnic items that come out every year, and, “He’s planning to do a major design of an American flag at the end. And there’ll be surprises that he doesn’t want to talk about right now.”

If there’s one thing Zoldan wants to reiterate, it’s that the show is not political.

“The Phantom Fireworks family and the Grucci family are thrilled and honored to be a part of this. I know it’ll be somewhat controversial, I know that there will be some media that will play this out as political,” he said. “When I said that people in my neighborhood came to watch the fireworks show at our house, there were Republicans, there were Democrats. There were Caucasians, there were African Americans. There was every cross-section of America.”

“We were watching fireworks, and everybody was not talking politics. They were talking America’s birthday, the Fourth of July, and that’s why we’re doing this,” Zoldan told WTOP. “We’re doing this for America. It’s a salute to America. And we’re honored to be a part of Washington, D.C.’s historic fireworks show.”

While taxpayers won’t foot the bill for Phantom and Grucci’s donations, the total cost of “Salute to America” is unknown.

July 4 National Mall Map

Schedule of events:

National Independence Day Parade — Constitution Avenue NW from 7th Street to 17th Street NW

  • 11:45 a.m. — 2 p.m.
  • Marching bands, fife and drum corps, floats, military units, giant balloons, equestrian, drill teams and more celebrate Independence Day in this patriotic, flag-waving, red, white and blue celebration of America’s birthday.

Salute to America — Lincoln Memorial

  • 6:30 p.m. — 7:30 p.m.
  • President Trump leads a celebration of America’s military with music, military demonstrations and flyovers. Gates open at 3:30 p.m.
  • There will be a restricted area closest to the stage that is reserved for special guests, friends and family, a White House spokesperson told WAMU. This area will be managed by the U.S. Secret Service. Tickets are being issued by the White House, a Secret Service Spokesman said. The restricted area includes the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to midway down the Reflecting Pool. The rest of the area will be accessible to the public.

A Capitol Fourth Concert — West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol

  • 8 p.m. — 9:30 p.m.
  • Co-sponsored by the National Park Service and the National Symphony Orchestra, A Capital Fourth honors our nation’s 243rd birthday with an all-star salute of the best in American entertainment. Gates open at 3 p.m. Get more info at pbs.org/capitolfourth.

Fireworks Display

  • 9:07 p.m. — 9:40 p.m. (approximate, donated fireworks add 15-20 minutes)
  • Independence Day culminates with a spectacular fireworks display over the National Mall. The fireworks will be launched from West Potomac Park and behind the Lincoln Memorial. They will be visible from locations throughout D.C. and Northern Virginia.

Additional details about the day’s events, including security restrictions, public access points, road closures and prohibited items, will be announced in late June. Complete information and updates on the Independence Day celebration will be posted to nps.gov/foju.

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