At 11, he started helping out at the family factory by making the stationary wooden pieces used to launch fireworks. He was 14 when he started helping his father and uncles shoot the shows. Modern laws require those workers to be at least 18.
"My first fireworks display for a president was on the south lawn of the White House two weeks before John F. Kennedy was assassinated," Zambelli said.
He was 15 at the time and has shot displays for every president since.
The business is still a part-time affair for Zambelli, a graduate of the Saint Louis University School of Medicine and board-certified ophthalmologist.
By day he treats cataracts and glaucoma at his practice in Rochester, Pa. But on nights and weekends, he still likes to light up people's eyes with the family tradition.
"It brings the kid out in you," he said.
He has a staff of about 50 full-time employees plus thousands of seasonal workers who help pull off 2,200 shows each year.
Kim Ceyrolles, the project manager who helped put together the sesquicentennial shows, shares Zambelli's passion for the work.
"You really do have to love the creative part of this business," Ceyrolles said. "You're always making people happy - it's a fun, fun thing to do.
"There's just nothing like it; we're very lucky to be in this."
Ceyrolles and her crew have visited the Capitol two times to lay out logistics for the shows.
She and the show choreographer, Zach Taminosian, began working on the format, soundtrack and pyrotechnic effects in March.
They also had to work with the Charleston Fire Department, General Services Division and state Fire Marshal's Office to make sure the fireworks and pyrotechnics wouldn't leave any lasting effects on the Capitol building.
"We had to make sure that the effects we used on the dome not only created an element of surprise for the community, but were also safe and protected it," Ceyrolles said.
Zambelli didn't know the exact number of fireworks and pyrotechnic effects to be shot over the next three days but said the number was certainly in the "tens of thousands."
The shows will be set to a blend of West Virginia-inspired music.
"Overall what we asked for was a good mix of West Virginia and celebratory, upbeat music," said the commission's Ruby.
Ceyrolles didn't want to give away many secrets, but she let slip that Robert C. Byrd's fiddle playing and the music of West Virginia native Brad Paisley would play prominent roles.
The soundtrack will change each night, so visitors will be treated to something fresh for each show.
Ruby said the only repeat will be a special recording of "Happy Birthday" by the Mountain Stage band that will be used to transition from the 3-D film to the fireworks show each night.
"We wanted to have our own West Virginia 'Happy Birthday' in there, and Mountain Stage was happy to do that for us," she said.
Ruby said the exact cost of the fireworks shows hasn't been tallied but those figures will be released - along with a full accounting of sesquicentennial spending - once the events are finished.
She said the fireworks are being fully funded by private donations rather than state revenue.
The displays are designed for an audience located along the south side of the Capitol.
Ceyrolles said the best places to view the show would be from Kanawha Boulevard or from across the river near the University of Charleston campus.
Contact writer Jared Hunt at busin...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.
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