Two-for-one deals mark busy fireworks buying season

Fireworks at Lincoln Park.

Pete Zollner setting up fireworks at his stand in the west parking lot of the Mesa Mall near Sears store.



According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

Six people died from fireworks in 2012, according to the most recent data:

■ A 17-year-old boy died of injuries sustained when a sparkler bomb that he and his friend made exploded.

■ A 30-year-old male died of severe facial injuries six days after a mortar type of firework ignited in his face.

■ A 26-year-old man died when an illegal aerial firework device exploded.

■ A 60-year-old man died of blunt force trauma when a homemade firework detonated unexpectedly.

■ A 30-year-old man suffered severe injuries and lingered six days before dying after explosions destroyed his house while he was making illegal fireworks

■ A 61-year-old man died at the scene when he ignited a professional-grade firework device while holding its fuse.

Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

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Fireworks dealers are giving patriotic pyrotechnists plenty of bang for their buck this year with two-for-one deals on every package, according to an informal survey of several local vendors.

It’s a specialized business and entrepreneurs must consider a variety of factors before launching their venture, the National Fireworks Association said.

To open the tent flaps in Grand Junction, for example, each vendor must obtain a permit from Grand Junction Fire Department to operate. Most remain open only during the week preceding Independence Day, fire officials said.

Inherently dangerous, fireworks pose several unique risks for retailers, which is why most grocery and department stores won’t sell them, the association reported.

Grand Valley vendors said products sold locally are more safe and less risky.

The short, weeklong sales season also reduces exposure to risk. Consumers are motivated because they know they have only a limited time to buy, the association said.

Most local outlets for fireworks have been operated by the same companies for years.

To stay in business, vendors must pay close attention to the products they sell to make sure they comply with the law.

In Colorado, black powder packed into a variety of cardboard shapes will smoke, spit, jump, spin, and throw off sparks in colorful cascades, but none will explode or launch into the air, at least not legally.

Those that go up or blow up are illegal, the Grand Junction Fire Department said.

Even without the added danger, people of all ages were lining up Wednesday evening to buy the soon-to-be-smoldering fire hazards — the first time in more than two years they have been able to do so locally, Deputy Fire Chief Jim Bright said.

Consumers reacted to news of no fire restrictions this year as if Prohibition ended, buying — instead of cases of gin — hundreds of dollars of fireworks with every visit, according to Todd Beasley, a sales clerk at Shoot the Moon, which is situated in a parking lot near City Market at 634 24 Road.

Owned by a family from Montrose that Beasley declined to name, Shoot the Moon operates tents for the weeklong firecracker season in Grand Junction, Clifton and Montrose and has done so for years, he said.

Beasley said a work crew raised the large 250-square-foot tent, stocked it with fireworks and opened it up for business last Thursday.

“It’s been very steady ever since,” he said.

One man spent $600 to buy $1,200 worth of product on his first visit. He returned every day afterward to buy up more sparklers by the armload, Beasley said.

Shoot the Moon opened for the last time at 7 a.m. this morning and will remain open until midnight or until all products are sold, whichever comes first, Beasley said.

Beasley said he expected to be overwhelmed today by a huge, last-minute rush.

The story was much the same across Patterson Road at Phantom Fireworks, where 24-year-old Colorado Mesa University finance major Pete Zollner is operating his first business in a parking lot next to Sears.

Zollner too is offering two-for-one deals, but individual fireworks can be purchased there for as little as $1.29. He also sells packaged sets at prices ranging up to $149.99.

Prices for packaged sets range from $45 to $210 at Shoot the Moon, Beasley said.

Spending $150 to get $300 worth of fireworks has induced many to buy more than they originally intended, Zollner said.

Phantom Fireworks has occupied the same spot in the past. Zollner signed on this year as the sole sales person. He earns a commission on every sale.

He is out of pocket about $1,000 for travel and set-up costs, but expects to make that money back and much more. Whatever he doesn’t sell by midnight tonight goes back to Phantom at no cost to Zollner.

Since the distributor sets up and breaks down the tent, Zollner said his first venture into retailing has proven relatively stress-free, even if the tallish CMU senior must sleep on a cot in the middle of the tent every night for security reasons.

The first night he was in business, winds shook and moved the giant tent in several directions. He said he stayed up most of the night keeping watch over the structure, which survived, anchored to the asphalt by water-filled barrels.

Zollner said a highlight of the week so far has been watching children race around making decisions about what to buy.

“We’ve had some kids here who’ve never seen a fireworks stand before,” he said.

Elyce West, 4, Emma Ash, 9, and Devan Ash, 8, were not among that group. They knew exactly what they were shopping for.

“I like the ones that spin and bounce on the ground,” Devan Ash said.

Mother Jamie Gall said she’s throwing a family get-together Friday with burgers, hot dogs and a homemade fireworks display, following the big show in Fruita Thursday night.

She keeps a five-gallon bucket of water handy as the place to deposit spent fireworks, and she keeps a close watch over her children when they light up.

“We’ll be celebrating freedom with family and friends,” she said.


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