Fireworks are a blast (pun intended). I love fireworks. I worked for three summers operating a firework sales tent and I absolutely loved it. I learned a lot about fireworks and how to have a safe and enjoyable holiday.
Keep in mind there are 3 main categories for fireworks, Aerials, Fountains and Novelties. Ariel’s will be labeled “shoots flaming balls” and on average will go 10’-150’ in the air. Fountains will be labeled “emits showers of sparks and go anywhere from 3’-10’. Novelties’ labels will vary depending on what they do. Novelty fireworks include sparklers, snakes, flowers etc. A good firework show will have a combination of all of these.
There are five things to keep in mind when building your firework show. 1) Your audience, 2) Your budget, 3) Firework laws in your area 4) Quality of the fireworks your buying, and 5) safety.
First your Audience
Generally children are scared by aerials but enjoy fountains. Whereas adults will enjoy aerials more than fountains, and I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like a few sparklers or other novelty fireworks.
Another thing to keep in mind are special circumstances. For example, when I was selling fireworks I had a woman come to me asking if I had a recommendation for quiet fireworks because her husband recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan. Thankfully I was able to find something that would work for her whole family. There is always something that everyone can enjoy, you just have to know what to look for. For that reason I recommend buying from warehouses or tents, because the staff is familiar with every firework in stock and can give you a no-surprises recommendation.
Second your Budget
When I was selling fireworks I could put together a decent show in any budget. All it takes is knowledge of the fireworks. Do your research and spend some time on YouTube so you know what you like. Then look around for the best sales. Beware of BOGO offers. Most tents will lure you in with amazing buy one get one offers only to find out you have to get two of the exact same firework or that only one thing in the whole tent/store applies to the sale. Shop multiple locations before buying, this way you know what’s out there and what the prices are like before you spend your money at one place, only to find out that another place is selling the same thing half price.
Third The Laws
Here in Utah there are only a few days we can light fireworks and some areas that fireworks are banned altogether and a few fireworks that are not allowed. So make sure you know what is allowed in your front yard before lighting anything. The American Pyrotechnics Association has a great guide to each state’s laws.
Fourth, firework quality
The number one reason to buy from a tent or warehouse is the quality of the fireworks. When fireworks are sold to grocery stores they are made differently to hit the price point the store’s buyer is looking for. This is what my regional supervisor called the “Wal-Mart effect” there would be less product in each firework and sometimes they would even add sand to make it feel like they were the same as any other. Next look for companies that offer a No-Dud policy. Phantom Fireworks for example will exchange any partially detonated firework for a brand new one no questions asked. Not to mention the quality of service. The people that sell fireworks, know fireworks and want to help you make the best show possible.
Practicing safety is essential to putting on a great show. Because let’s face it, if you start your house on fire your holiday is ruined. The good news is, fireworks are actually fairly safe as long as they are handled correctly. Fountains and novelty require less precaution than aerials, because they don’t reach as high or as far so all you really need is a competent adult and a bucket of water or a hose. For aerials you’ll want to have 2-4 bricks or large rocks to brace against the sides before detonating to keep them from tipping over, as well as a water source. You’ll also want to keep in mind the angle the firework will shoot out at, most go straight up but some will go out to the sides in a fan motion. Fireworks that fan out will often be labeled with a “This Side to the Audience” sticker on one side to make it easier. And that’s all you need, However fire sticks/lighters and punks can add an extra level of safety especially if you let young ones light the fireworks.
What are firework shows like in your neighborhood?