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Fireworks have humble origins, but have come a long way

Fireworks have humble origins, but have come a long way


YORK — With names like “Supreme Bullet Fountain,” “Fire in the Hole,” “Noise Complaint” and “Space Zipper,” modern fireworks boast ear-splitting screeches and bangs, colorful spark fountains and colored balls of fire taking to the air.

Centuries ago, fireworks were but bamboo sticks thrown into a fire, which produced loud explosions, according to many historians.

Today selling fireworks is big business, with big top tents popping up across town vying to be known as the stand with the most, biggest and loudest. “People love the artillery shells,” said Bellino Fireworks stand’s Jared Dwiley. Dwiley estimated the stand’s cheapest firework at twenty cents, and the most expensive hovering around $150. The stand is operated by a group of families, and has been in business for ten years.

Centuries ago, early U.S. settlers brought the popular exploding entertainment with them across the Atlantic. Fireworks were part of the United States’ first Independence Day (July 4, 1777), and since then the tradition has continued.

At a tent further into town, Cole Gustafson, Sam Gustafson and Max Ericson man their family’s fireworks stand. Business is usually strong, especially at the beginning of the season, Sam said, but this year has been a bit different. “It’s been a lot better, with baseball getting cancelled and all that,” he said. Sam said Sunday night there were so many customers they had to kick people out of the tent at 10 p.m. to close for the day.

Dwiley said he and his stand’s co-owners weren’t sure what to think about Fourth of July 2020. “We don’t have a lot of expectations because this is such a crazy year,” he said.

Cindy Williams traveled from Geneva to peruse York’s fireworks offerings. “There are favorites at every place,” Williams said. She added that she and her family enjoy the Fourth of July tradition so much, that a fireworks budget isn’t considered. “Not for fireworks – if I want it I get it,” Williams said. Being unable to do things like go out to eat, she said, has saved a little more fireworks spending money. In 2018 as a whole, Americans spent an estimated $945 million on consumer fireworks – not counting organized display sales.

York’s upcoming Firecracker Frenzy and other explosive celebrations across the country not only entertain, but bring money into communities’ economies. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, one of the country’s largest displays is “Thunder Over Louisville,” part of the Kentucky Derby’s month-long celebration. An economic study of the event estimates $56 million brought to the city’s economy by the event.

Fireworks like those used in Thunder Over Louisville and sold in stands across the country offer a much wider, more sophisticated variety of explosives than those first bamboo fireworks. Dwiley has a theory about fireworks’ continued popularity. “It’s a good family activity and get-together with friends. It just makes you feel good.”

The fireworks stands in York have officially opened and will remain open until midnight on the Fourth of July.

According to city ordinances, fireworks may be sold and purchased between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. each day. Those are the same hours during which they can be discharged.

The hours are extended to midnight on the Fourth of July only.

Local officials want everyone to remember that bottle rockets and sky lanterns are not allowed.

People illegally discharging fireworks after or before the allowable hours could be subject to fines.

And everyone is reminded to not shoot fireworks onto other people’s property and to keep debris out of the streets.

Another very important reminder is to never, ever shoot fireworks from a moving vehicle. This has been done in the past, in York, which resulted in serious injuries for the participants and damage to the vehicle.

If anyone has concerns or complaints about misuse of fireworks, including discharge after hours, they should call the police department at 402-363-2640.

Meanwhile, another type of reminder is being stressed by representatives of York Adopt A Pet, regarding the effect fireworks can have on animals, particularly dogs.

Lamoine Roth from YAAP explained that “a dog’s ears are very sensitive and they don’t understand where this noise is coming from. I have had dogs who would hide under the bed shivering in fear even with my reassurance of trying to console them. If you have a dog or cat, pet rabbit or any other type of pet, take them inside. Put them in a bathroom, basement -- even the garage is better than being outside. If possible turn on a radio or TV to help dilute the noises coming through the walls. The volunteers at York Adopt a Pet will be overwhelmed with dogs coming into the shelter. Some dogs who bolt are never found. It is a terrifying ordeal when a dog is so scared that they just run and run. Unfortunately with all the fireworks going off in city limits, they can’t get away from the noise and sometimes run out into the country.”

If someone finds a dog running loose they are encourage to call their local law enforcement agency and/or YAAP so efforts can be made to return animals back to their owners.

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