It ended up being a near perfect Fourth of July weekend in Pittsburgh. Other than a few torrential downpours that decided to interrupt a lot of cookouts – but would you really expect otherwise? At least the temperature cooled off and the skies cleared up for the annual fireworks display over Point State Park!

Fireworks family feud

This year’s show was put on by a company called Pyrotecnico. In the past, Pittsburgh’s pyrotechnics were handled by another company known as Zambelli. Two different companies with very similar stories…

  • Both are located about 60 miles north, in New Castle, Pennsylvania.
  • Both companies started in Italy around the 1890’s.
  • Both owners immigrated to the US and brought their fireworks expertise with them.
  • Both companies have shared the same top choreographer.

The choreographer worked for Zambelli since 2001, but decided to quit and take a job with Pyrotecnico in 2008. At the same time, a few customers also left Zambelli for Pyrotecnico (looks like the Three Rivers Regatta was one of them). A lawsuit the two companies spawned because this situation, but it was thrown out by the judge in 2010.


Fireworks are a big part of Pittsburgh pride, which probably explains why we have around 100 fireworks events per year.  And as we all know, the Burgh isn’t exactly the easiest place to bring about any form of change, unless of course the change literally puts change in the city’s pockets (like parking meters). Just look at how long it has taken us to get bike lanes! So it should come as no surprise that some locals were displeased with the fireworks display last night:

Pittsburgh is known as the Fireworks Capital of the United States. Zambelli Fireworks Internationale has traditionally lit up the skies at Pittsburgh’s Fourth of July celebration,

HOWEVER, for this year’s 4th of July, they switched to a company named Pyrotecnico. For over $100K, all we got was less than 3 minutes of visible fireworks, during a 25 minute show, because all Pyrotecnico did was create a huge dense cloud that TOTALLY OBSCURED viewing the fireworks from EVERY 360 degree vantage point.

412Pirate posted this fireworks video on YouTube with the above description. The title of the video was “2011 4th of July Fireworks in Pittsburgh ~ the WORSE EVER.” Clearly this guy is not happy with the company that was hired to shoot fireworks over Pittsburgh this year. His channel has other videos from the same location from other years if you want to compare.

But wasn’t it the same choreographer that used to work with Zambelli? Then what could have caused the show to be disappointing to longtime fireworks spectators in the Burgh?

Blame the rain

One would think the rain had something to do with the fireworks display, but the company made it clear that the rain was not an issue.

Pyrotecnico pyrotecnico“@600SqFtnTheCity: @pyrotecnico Did rain cause any issues with fireworks show in #Pittsburgh ?” No it did not. All was well. Show rocked!!!

Pushing the limits

One thing we know for sure is that when Zambelli does the fireworks in Pittsburgh, they went to extremes to impress. Back in 2008, the company was responsible for designing the fireworks display that celebrated Pittsburgh’s 250 year anniversary (on October 4, 2008), and they had 17 launch sites which was most firing locations ever used in the United States. One of those launch sites was on top of the US Steel Building which scored Zambelli a Guinness Book of World Records entry for shooting fireworks from the highest altitude.

We’re not sure how many launch sites were used by Pyrotecnico last night, but then again it wasn’t Pittsburgh’s 250th birthday party.

Final finale?

Will Pyrotecnico score another contract next year? Or will Pittsburgh call Zambelli back? Who makes these decisions anyway? Who would have thought that choosing the fireworks provider would be so political!

Boring Pittsburgh wants to know what you thought about the 2011 fireworks display compared to previous years. We’re not the best judges for this because we love all fireworks over the Steel City. Slightly biased.