Fireworks business still booms

Monday, June 25, 2007

Celebrating America's freedom has some restrictions in Southeast Missouri.

Structure and brush fires caused by firework displays around Independence Day have led to stricter laws in Cape Girardeau County, according to local fire officials.

As a result, the sale and use of fireworks in the cities of Cape Girardeau and Jackson are limited to Wednesday through July 4, a week less than the state law, which Scott City follows.

Furthermore, customers must be 14 years of age or older -- unless accompanied by a parent or guardian -- to purchase fireworks in Missouri. In Cape and Jackson the age requirement is 17.

Bottle rockets are not permitted for distribution or discharge within the city limits of Cape, Jackson or Scott City.

Though more regulations come up each year, fireworks distributors are still making sales. And people still enjoy a display of lights and an explosion.

Mary Ann Hoffman, owner of Hoffman Family Fireworks, said a few people have affected the entire area by handling fireworks irresponsibly, but her family business has continued to boom.

"Anything can be misused. Nobody bans alcohol even though it's caused some accidents," she said. "Why should a few people ruin it for everybody else?"

The Hoffmans have been involved in fireworks retail more than 60 years, and Hoffman said it's helped pay their children school tuition, plus the store has employed a number of local people through the years.

Inside city limits, a 7.475 cents local sales tax is collected from fireworks and 5.225 cents is collected outside of city limits, according to figures from the Missouri Department of Revenue.

The Hoffmans sell fireworks on Interstate 55 off exit 91, outside of city limits, and they have a tent on William Street for the week before the 4th of July.

Meramac Specialty Co.'s Fireworks City, based out of Arnold, Mo., will also have a vendor in Cape Girardeau when fireworks sales are permitted.

Mark Loyd, president of the company, said the quality of fireworks has improved tremendously as a result of tighter regulations in the last 15 years and sales have increased 600 percent in the United States. Injuries have gone down 88 percent, he said.

"There's a much greater public acceptance of consumer fireworks," he said. "We've learned how to properly sell them and use them, instead of putting our heads in the sand."

Loyd said states that never sold fireworks before like Minnesota, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Georgia have recently legalized consumer fireworks.

Along with Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Scott City will have vendors selling fireworks again this year, but firefighters will make sure the stands don't violate city ordinances before city licenses are approved.

"I'm usually the one looked at as unpatriotic," said Les Crump, Jackon's assistant fire chief.

He said he's had to give out verbal warnings before but has never shut down a booth.

"For the most part people follow the rules. It's not that big of a deal."

tkrakowiak@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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