APOLLO BEACH — It started out as a small fireworks show on New Year's Eve for restaurant customers but has morphed into a nearly $30,000 pyrotechnic extravaganza for the entire community.
A fireworks show will light up the Apollo Beach sky on New Year's Eve, and no one is more thrilled than Vic Granowicz, co-owner of Circles, a waterfront restaurant in the heart of town, who spearheaded the big show.
It's a perfect thank-you to the Apollo Beach community, he said.
"The community has built us," Granowicz said. "We wouldn't be here if not for the community. The Apollo Beach community is responsible for our success."
In October, Granowicz and Circles co-owner Chris Bodensky, who is also the restaurant's executive chef, tossed around ideas to put some sparkle into their New Year's Eve festivities for customers. Bodensky suggested a fireworks show, a little bigger than the one they had in the restaurant's parking lot a few years ago. They decided to spend $5,000.
Then, they wondered if they could put together a bigger show, one that could be shared with both customers and the Apollo Beach community.
Granowicz, 41, envisioned a massive fireworks show, something that could be enjoyed by thousands.
But Circles only had $5,000 for a fireworks show. Much more would be needed to put on a display that would generate broad smiles and wild applause.
So, Granowicz sent out emails. Dozens of them. He had little success in the beginning and then got a response from TECO, which manages the Big Bend power station and Manatee Viewing Center. TECO pledged to match Circles' contribution. Other donations soon flowed in, eventually amounting to a total of $27,500 from 17 sponsors.
Their fireworks show, Granowicz believes, will be the largest production in Florida on New Year's Eve.
"It's kind of the talk of the town," Granowicz said, excitedly. "People are planning parties around the event."
Resident Randall Laurent is one of them. He plans to watch the show with his two sons and friends.
Laurent recognizes the fireworks show could draw thousands, many of them from outside their little town of about 15,000 nestled on Tampa Bay.
But, Laurent won't mind the crowds or the noise. He's thrilled to see a fireworks show in his city. He has even encouraged friends from other suburbs to pop by for the event.
"I think it's great," he said. "It's a good family event."
Granowicz, his sister, Christie, and their parents Don and Donna, opened Circles about 15 years ago.
Granowicz, who is also an architect, said the restaurant was his first project after graduating from the University of Florida. He designed and built the restaurant, which showcases breathtaking views of Tampa Bay.
Granowicz and his sister recently bought their parents' share of the business and brought in partners Bodensky and Michael Takacs. But, their parents really haven't left. Mom still makes the restaurant's desserts and "my dad is our best customer," Granowicz said, laughing.
Pyrotecnico, one of the top fireworks companies in the country, is producing the 15-minute show that will be choreographed to music. The show will start at midnight. Fireworks will be launched from a floating barge in Bal Harbor.
It will be a special night, Granowicz said, and one he can't wait to see. It was a struggle early on to secure funding, hire a fireworks company and obtain various permits, including one from the Coast Guard. So, he is still somewhat shocked that it all came together and Apollo Beach will be the epicenter of such an amazing event.
"Apollo Beach is a little, tiny town," he said.
Circles' customers and nearby residents will have the best view of the fireworks show. The restaurant opens at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 31 and closes at 2 a.m. on Jan. 1. But, Granowicz promises that the show will entertain many more.
"The show will be big enough to see on I-75," he said.
Monica Bennett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.