Propping his arm on the workbench, 9-year-old John Sorgi watches his father, Jim Sorgi, tie a knot on a 5-inch cylinder shell. The “Wizard of Ahhs” is just a boy, but he’s following Jim’s footsteps, who started by stuffing fuses in paper tubes for his father, Vincenzo Sorgi.
Vincenzo, a third-generation pyrotechnician, immigrated from Avezzano, Italy, in 1899. The Pennsylvania Railroad then led him from Ellis Island to Hudson, a town ripe for a notch in the Fireworks Beltway.
There, Vincenzo married, bought an old potato farm, honed his craft in an abandoned shack and began taking weekly trips to Pennsylvania, returning with as many as seven suitcases full of fireworks.
No mere hobbyist, by 1929, Vincenzo was attempting to send rockets to the moon. The first rocket climbed a thousand feet before falling.
The second rocket was launched but never recovered. The third rocket was axed when the community learned Vincenzo planned to send his dog skyward with a parachute.
By 1960, the then-Cleveland Indians relied on American Fireworks for home run fusillades. The 1980s saw them supplying for Cleveland Browns games, Cleveland's Festival of Freedom at Edgewater Park and the Detroit-Windsor International Freedom Festival.
In 120 years, American Fireworks has grown from a half-acre to 70 acres, and the 250-square-foot shed where Vincenzo’s son and grandson worked is still on the property.
The Sorgi legacy is now in the hands of great-grandsons John David Sorgi and Roberto Sorgi, who continue to paint the night with stars.