Explosion of holiday anticipation excites consumers, local retailers

Individuals and groups spend thousands on entertainment for the Fourth of July.
YOUNGSTOWN -- With the Fourth of July just around the corner, fireworks buyers are giving local companies a real boom in sales.
"The use of fireworks in this country is on a dramatic increase," said Bill Weimer, vice president of B.J. Alan Co. Inc., the parent company of Phantom Fireworks.
According to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, buyers used 253.4 million pounds of fireworks in 2004, a significant increase from 159 million pounds in 2000.
Ken Tirpack, manager of the Phantom Fireworks store at 9400 Market St. in North Lima, said 90 percent of his sales occur in the two weeks before the Fourth of July, and he predicts many local residents will shop for fireworks this weekend.
Although customers buy all kinds of consumer fireworks, called 1.4G fireworks, Ohio law legalizes only the "four S's" -- sparklers, smokes, snakes and snaps, said Dave Schroeder, administrator of the Fireworks and Explosives Unit of the State Fire Marshal's Office.
Before they can buy, Ohio residents must agree to take all other kinds of 1.4G fireworks out of the state within 48 hours. Visitors from out of state have 72 hours, Schroeder said.
Visiting consumers are common, Tirpack said.
He said a man from upstate New York who spent $10,000 has made the season's largest purchase so far and had to use a trailer to haul his goods home.
But most area buyers spend a much smaller amount.
Mike Seelman of Boardman said he clipped coupons before spending about $175 on fireworks for a family reunion. Although he went over his budget, Seelman said the cost would be worth the enjoyment.
Canfield resident Bob Kercher paid about $50 for an assortment of fireworks for a family show in Michigan.
Kercher said he buys fireworks because they entertain family members of all ages at holiday events.
Watching fireworks also generates a feeling of nostalgia and a sense of childlike wonder for members of the older generations, Kercher said.
Commercial shows
Many area sponsors and communities pay hefty prices to create that sense of wonder by using commercial fireworks, or 1.3G fireworks, to end their holiday celebrations.
Such commercial fireworks displays must be executed by one of Ohio's 526 licensed exhibitors, Schroeder said.
The Canfield Lions Club budgeted $20,000 for its show Sunday at the Canfield Fairgrounds, though the group charges an entrance fee of $10 per car to cover some of the costs, Chairman Jim Duncan said.
The Newton Falls Fourth of July Festivities Committee raised money for its free, 40-minute show, which might cost as much as $30,000, committee member Diane Shiley said.
In Warren, Thomas Groth, the associate executive director of the W.D. Packard Concert Band, said the band sponsors a 30-minute, $15,000 show after its concert for the public at Packard Park.
Austintown Trustee David Ditzler said his township's Fourth of July Committee raises about $10,000 for a half-hour show, which is supplemented by a donation of about $5,000 worth of fireworks from B.J. Alan.
That company also makes a donation of about $6,000 in fireworks to supplement a show sponsored by the city of Youngstown, Federal Plaza Director Claire Maluso said.
Boardman, Poland and Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa., also are expected to present fireworks displays of significant size.

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