In the Beginning...
San Francisco Bay Area, early 1900's, Manuel de Sousa and his family have arrived after a journey that has taken them from the San Miguel Islands of Portugal, then to the Hawaiian Islands and finally the San Francisco Bay Area. Manuel and the Sousa Family make a big impact on Portuguese Saint’s Days by creating fireworks for the Portuguese community celebrations. Crowds are thrilled at the Festa do Espirito Santo or the "Holy Ghosts Festival." Soon Manuel becomes well known as "Papagayo" (meaning "Parrot") for his colorful showmanship. The whole family is involved in making the fireworks at their home and shooting the shows with Manuel.pyro papagayo
Over the decades sons carry on the tradition. Son, Alfred, works closely with his father and is honored when Manuel entrusts him with the Recipe Book containing the family's pyrotechnic secrets. Alfred is later recruited by the U.S. Military for his skills as a family-taught chemist.
The death of the Patriarch, Manuel, and the beginning of World War II interrupt the family business briefly in the 1940s until grandson, Bob, rekindles the flame and begins creating shows for county fairs and 4th of July shows through the 1950s and '60s. Wanting to expand the business, but strapped for capital, he joins forces with a large consumer fireworks company and advances the art of display fireworks to even new heights. In a few years Bob forms an all-new corporation with a vision of a world-class fireworks production company. In 1979 Pyro Spectaculars opens its doors in Southern California, marking the end of the cottage business and the beginning of the modern pyrotechnic enterprise.
Throughout the Years... A History of Innovation and Industry Leadership
pyro bob souzaAs a result of being seriously injured during the firing of a display, just as his grandfather Manuel was, Bob redoubles safety efforts, designing electrical firing systems and employing regular training for pyrotechnicians and fire service personnel alike. He becomes involved with developing state safety regulations and gains national respect as two-time President of the American Pyrotechnic Association and recipient of it's lifetime achievement award.
Bob's son, Jim, who has been taking part in shows since he was 12, takes over Pyro Spectaculars, Inc. in 1989. Under the leadership of Bob and Jim Souza, two entertainment pioneers, the company develops into a powerful force in the display fireworks industry, now widely known as the “Fireworks Ambassadors to the World.” By developing revolutionary choreography methods and precisely firing fireworks to music at the biggest events around the globe, Pyro Spectaculars grows into one of the largest and most respected fireworks display companies in the world.
The Souza Family Today
Other family members join Jim in the business as well. Brother, Gary Souza, has headed up the Pyro Spectaculars Team for over twenty years at Macy's Fourth of July Celebration in New York City, the largest Independence Day Show in the World. Brother-in-law, Ian Gilfillan, is second in command as the Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Company. Sister, Nancy Souza-Gilfillan, and Ian travel the world, from the Space Needle in Seattle to Hong Kong and Germany, instilling the “Sousa” brand of magic everywhere they go. pyro jim souza
The Souza family has now come 100 years from community festivals in the San Francisco Bay Area, to many of the premier events of the century. The company has not forgotten its roots and still conducts over 1,000 community and regional events each year in California.
Now the family tradition of fireworks spans five generations! Jim has been joined by his sons, Paul and Christopher Souza, the great, great grandchildren of Manuel de Sousa. The boys are already licensed fireworks technicians in California and are working full time in the family business having graduated from college. They too have started to travel to the great shows of the world to fulfill their own dedication to innovation by further advancing the artistic and precision use of computers in the fireworks industry. This next Souza generation is realizing its dream and is taking the family business into the digital revolution by perfecting the use of computerized firing systems and high-end production management.
Although the business has grown into a world-renowned industry leader and its products and services continue to modernize, the family looks back with pride to its ancestors, their fireworks heritage, and the dreams that they have realized like so many other immigrant families of this Great Country. Most of all, each and every member of the Souza family is proud to be American.