That's Soooo Cincinnati

Big Bangers

There's something inherently cool about a family that blows up stuff. Cooler still that they're known throughout the country for their ability to blow up stuff. And the coolest part of all is they're locals.

The Rozzi family — a name synonymous with fireworks — has been a Cincinnati institution for nearly 75 years. They've provided the sparkle and boom in the annual Riverfest celebration on Labor Day weekend since it started in 1977. They do the nightly shows at Paramount's Kings Island and (on winning nights) at Reds games. And, of course, they put on most of the big displays around town and elsewhere during this weekend's Fourth of July ceremonies.

And during a time when it seems like only coffee shops and dry-cleaners are family-owned and operated, Rozzi's has stayed true to its roots from day one. No corporate sell-outs here. This family blows up stuff together.

It started when Paul Rozzi, an Italian immigrant, came to the U.S. in 1895. He first settled in Pennsylvania and started making fireworks right away. Paul would teach his trade to his son, Arthur, who — according to family lore — took to the craft like a fish to water. In 1930, Arthur brought his family to Loveland and started his own fireworks factory. His first gig was a standing contract to shoot displays for Coney Island. He also shot fireworks after the first-ever night game in Major League Baseball history on May 23, 1935 at Crosley Field.

Cincinnati and its residents' eardrums haven't been the same since. Today, the family makes by hand more than 100,000 aerial shells annually at its Symmes Township factory.

Sadly, this Independence Day will be a little different for the historic family. Joe Rozzi Sr., Arthur's son, passed away earlier this month at the age of 80. To put it in perspective, he was the only link to the pre-Cincinnati Rozzis. With him, an era ends.

But his and the family's legacy certainly lives on with each "oooh" and "ahhh" gasped during one of those trademark Rozzi finales. So when you're sitting back with your family, admiring a colorful explosion overhead, think of the Rozzis. They're sooooo Cincinnati.

THAT'S SOOOO CINCINNATI highlights the area's quirky assets, hidden gems, unique personalities and criminal secrets — and reprises one of the most popular features in CityBeat's 10-year history.

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