Two of the things that Pittsburgh is known for -- fireworks and a spirit of competition -- played out in the sky last night as Pyrotecnico presented the city's annual Fourth of July display over Point State Park, replacing longtime fireworks company Zambelli.
Among the spectators, the oohs and ahhs were mixed with a few grumbles. But it's hard to dislike fireworks, no matter who is setting them off.
"Tonight was the best show I ever saw in my whole life," said Lori Giles, 47, of Swissvale. "I've seen lots of shows. And this was an A-plus."
This year's Fourth of July display was the first by New Castle company Pyrotecnico, which won the contract and beat out its neighbor, Zambelli Fireworks, the industry heavyweight that had presented the show nearly every year for the past two decades.
The 25-minute display was accompanied by a musical soundtrack that ranged from popular to patriotic, and a mix of inspirational quotes pumped over loudspeakers on the lawn at the front of the park.
"I thought it was a nice touch," said Ms. Giles.
"I was a little bit disappointed, knowing that it wasn't going to be Zambelli. But I'm not disappointed in the fireworks. They were great," said Paul Acierno, 56, of Carnegie, whose only complaint was that the music wasn't more patriotic.
"We loved the fireworks. Better than the Zambellis," said Joe Stefano, 49, of Harrison City, who hadn't seen a show in a few years. He and his family were attracted to the Point by rock band Three Dog Night and stayed for the aerial show.
"I just thought they were awesome. The only bad thing was we couldn't hear the music in the front of the park [near the Point]. They needed some speakers out there," he said. "And it was a little short, but because of how good they were I can't complain. I could watch fireworks all night."
But Roger Kinsella, 44, of Friendship, had a different perspective.
"It was over-hyped," he said. "They kept promising things you'd never seen before. But Zambelli, they always deliver a high-quality show. On the whole, I thought was disappointing."
The display capped the second day of the three-day Three Rivers Regatta, which has seen other changes over the past three decades. But those who attend said it's always been fun.
"There have been people camped out here since noon, in the Pittsburgh tradition of putting their blankets down, claiming their spot, and then walking away and enjoying everything that's going on," regatta spokesman Michael Dongilli said yesterday.
One of those who laid a claim to a grassy patch of Point State Park early in the day was Kelly Myers, 29, a nurse from Martins Ferry, Ohio. She, her daughter, Donielle, 7, and friends from Columbus, Ohio, come to Pittsburgh every year for the Fourth of July.
"We get rooms in the Hilton for two nights and make a real holiday of it," Ms. Myers said. "We've been coming for five years at least. We love it."
Winners of yesterday's boat races were Brent Dillard, of Dalzell, S.C., who averaged more than 87 mph over 20 laps in the Formula 3 and Jeff Reno, from Okeechobee, Fla., who averaged 113 mph over 30 laps in the Formula 2 race.
Dan Majors can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1456.