Firework vendors expect explosive Fourth

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Tragic events keep feeding patriotic fervor

By Scott Moyers ~ Southeast Missourian

With patriotism still surging 10 months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the sounds of booming Roman candles, whizzing Saturn missiles and giant, multishot cannons may take on more intensity -- and meaning -- than usual on the Fourth of July this year.

In Cape Girardeau and Jackson, fireworks go on sale today at 8 a.m. and area vendors are expecting business to soar in a year in which American flags and bumper stickers with patriotic phrases have popped up everywhere.

"I would think it would heighten our sales," said Chris Wheeler, who is manager of the newly renamed Patriot Fireworks. "I expect to see more people participating in the Fourth of July because there's more reason to be thankful for our independence."

Wheeler said that they changed the name from Kinder Fireworks -- which had operated in the area under that name for decades -- to Patriot Fireworks this year to keep in step with America's renewed sense of national pride, which was intensified after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon last year.

"We wanted to follow the patriotic theme," Wheeler said. "We also wanted to give ourselves a freshness. It seemed like a good time."

Fewer fireworks stands

There are actually fewer fireworks stands in the area than in previous years, said Cape Girardeau County Collector Diane Diebold. She said 18 licensed fireworks stands will operate in the county, and that is down slightly from past years. Last year, the city of Cape Girardeau issued 12 permits.

"We're running just a little behind," she said. "But I think that really is just that the owners are opening larger stands, but fewer of them."

Regardless of the number, industry experts agree with Wheeler's prediction of a successful year.

"We see this as a banner year for fireworks because of the renewed sense of patriotism," said Julie Heckman, executive director of the National Pyrotechnics Association, a group that represents the industry, including importers, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers.

In 2000, there were 161 million pounds of fireworks used and the industry has doubled in the past decade, Heckman said. In 2001, Americans spent $433 million on fireworks and she expects that figure to reach near $500 million during this Fourth of July season.

"Fireworks are what most people affiliate with celebrating their love for this country," she said, also stressing that people who use fireworks need to do so safely and with adult supervision.

The fireworks will come in more patriotic packages this year as well, said Kerry Johnson, who owns Big River Rockets, which has two tents in Cape Girardeau and one each in Jackson and Marble Hill.

"This year a lot of our stuff is packaged in ammo boxes and artillery boxes," Johnson said. "The theory is that people will be celebrating more for patriotic reasons. But it's the Fourth of July. What better reason?"

But some fireworks vendors worried that expectations for a big year may give an impression they're profiting from an event that took hundreds of lives.

"I do think it will be a very patriotic year," said Glenda Martin, marketing director for Red Rocket Fireworks of Stafford, Mo. Red Rocket has stands in five states and also in Cape Girardeau and Jackson. "But I don't like to think our profit is driven by such a catastrophe. That almost puts a downturn on the whole upside of celebrating our freedom."

Residents promised to celebrate this year by keeping the real meaning of the holiday at the front of their mind, whether it was through fireworks, visiting a veteran or talking to their children.

"I think it's probably been a wake-up call for all of us," said Ruth Sauerbrunn, 51, of Cape Girardeau. "I think people will be thinking about our freedoms and what people had to do to ensure those freedoms. That's what our Fourth of July is going to be about."

Dawn Major, 41, also of Cape Girardeau, said there's no question this Independence Day will be more special than in years past.

"For the first time in a long time, our freedom was on the line," she said. "They were trying to take away our freedom and we didn't stand for it. So absolutely people will be more appreciative of their freedoms and what the Fourth stands for."

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: