The Souzas light up the Fourth of July sky

Sunset

For most of us, Fourth of July fireworks elicit squeals ofdelight, but for fifth-generation pyrotechnicians Chris and PaulSouza, they bring sighs of relief.

"We don't get to celebrate until a couple of days after, becauseour family is all over the country and so exhausted. We still haveto recover," says Paul, the older of the two at 28.

The brothers' Rialto-based company, Pyro Spectaculars, wasstarted by their great-great-grandfather in the early 1900s and isnow one of the largest fireworks display companies in the country.Though many members of the family are involved, Chris and Paul playa big role in running the show.

With digital firing systems, homeland security constraints, and"sky concerts" (in which fireworks are timed to music), times havechanged since the company's founder lit his first fuse. Chris andPaul plot innovative performances months in advance and intermixoriginal music scores with the right number of the most popularfireworks, like weeping willows and 1,200-foot-high long-durationshells. But despite all the fancy new technology, the Souzasrecognize the value of their lineage.

"This is the kind of business you don't learn in a book. It'spassed down from generation to generation," says Chris, 27. "Mygrandmother tries to outlaw talking shop at the dinner table, butit always breaks down. It's unavoidable―we've got a littlegunpowder in our blood." ―Ryan Brandt

INFO: See a Souza show at the Rose Bowl's Americafest 2005 (Jul 4;$10; www.rosebowlstadium. com or 626/577-3101)

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