- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 4, 2007


The Zambelli sisters are girlie girls: Marcy is a former Miss Pennsylvania. Danabeth is blond, tanned and giggly. They wear pink toenail polish and talk on the phone every night even after working together all day.

But the sisters also help run one of the nation’s largest fireworks companies, a business that was traditionally the domain of men. Their father, George Zambelli, may have been disappointed when he had four daughters and only one son to teach the art of pyrotechnics at Zambelli Fireworks Internationale.

“We were girls, and girls didn’t really do that kind of stuff back then,” said Danabeth Zambelli, now 43.

The girls spent summers working at the company headquarters in New Castle, Pa., answering phones and inspecting orders. They also traveled to shows with their parents and watched their father turn the family business from mostly Independence Day celebrations to a national company that caters big events year-round.

When their father died in 2003, “we put our Army boots on and knew we had to march,” said Marcy Zambelli, 51, who has lived in South Florida since attending college in Boca Raton.

Now the sisters are executive vice presidents and oversee 50 employees. Another sister works in the Pennsylvania office and her husband does the choreography. Brother George Zambelli Jr. is chairman.

In the two weeks surrounding July Fourth, the company will do roughly 1,800 shows, including one at Mount Rushmore. Their company has organized displays for Times Square’s ball drop on New Year’s Eve, the Kentucky Derby and every president since John F. Kennedy.

Their office is filled with presidential memorabilia: A thank you note from the first President Bush for lighting up his 80th birthday party. A mention in Jackie Kennedy’s memoir, which refers to George Zambelli as the “fireworks guru of the day” after a show at a White House state dinner hosting Afghanistan’s king.

“They bring the sparkle to the business. They catch more details than we would,” said Tom Faulk, director of event planning for Marshall, Minn.-based Schwan Food Co., a client. “They understand the business as good as anybody in it. They were taught by the best.”

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