GIRARD Pyrotechnician ends 47-year career with a bang

He holds Zambelli International's safety record.
GIRARD -- When the last aerial bomb soared into Monday night's dark sky ending Mount Carmel Festival's fireworks display, Andrew Buonavolonta finished a sparkling career.
It wasn't just his 47 years of shooting fireworks displays with Zambelli International of New Castle, Pa., it was a spotless career -- without an injury.
"You aren't allowed to make mistakes in this deal," said the 74-year Buonavolonta, better known as "Gooch" to family and friends.
Buonavolonta was honored during the festival with proclamations, including those from the Ohio Senate and the Ohio Fire Marshal's Office.
As the festival was beginning its fourth and final night Monday, Buonavolonta of South Davis Street recollected his beginning in the fireworks business.
Beginnings: Employed at U.S. Steel Corp.'s McDonald Works, Buonavolonta knew a pyrotechnician who worked for Zambelli's. The man was scheduled to put on a display at a Girard festival.
"He needed help and I volunteered," recalled Buonavolonta, who became a state licensed pyrotechnician himself.
"I loved it," he said of watching the bombs explode and the people being entertained by his work.
After his retirement in 1980 as a boilermaker at U.S. Steel, Buonavolonta continued with his pyrotechnics.
He has been in charge of so many displays, he doesn't have a clue as to the number.
Safety measures: The key to such a clean record, Buonavolonta pointed out, were his safety meetings before each "shoot."
If one of his helpers, who are also licensed by the state, were to commit an unsafe act, he was taken aside, given an explanation of what he did wrong and made to watch another helper do it correctly.
Because most of the helpers were family members, Buonavolonta could lay down the law.
Buonavolonta holds Zambelli's safety record, which includes setting off bombs as big as 14 inches in diameter.
Most accidents, he said, are caused when the bombs are set off too rapidly in succession or a helper doesn't step aside after igniting one.
Some accidents are caused when racks that hold the bombs fall over and the devices are fired, but not into the air.
"My racks won't fall," he said with proven confidence.
Health problems: Although Buonavolonta's license doesn't expire until next July 7, he's getting out of fireworks display business because of his health.
He has a heart ailment and problems with his legs and arms.
Asked what he is going to do after such a career, Buonavolonta responded, "I'm 74 years old. What else can I do?"
He has a family to help him. Besides his wife Evelyn, he has three sons, Frank of Liberty, Andrew Jr. of Girard and Vito of Canfield, and two daughters, JoAnn Trucksis and Florence Doran, both of Girard.

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