With shows canceled, fireworks see sales boom

Sarah Eames | The Daily Star

Coventry resident Tom DeMuth inspects a box of “Dream Machine” fireworks Wednesday at the Keystone Fireworks tent in the Sidney Price Chopper parking lot

The physical embodiment of “going out with a bang,” fireworks arrive in New York each summer in silence, housed in the nondescript, high-peaked white tents popping up in parking lots across the state, seemingly overnight.

“It’s part of a great tradition of celebrating our nation’s independence,” said Jack May, managing director of the Pennsylvania-based pyrotechnics retailer Keystone Fireworks.

May said the coronavirus pandemic — and the ensuing widespread cancellation of community fireworks shows — prompted a spike in sales.

.“It seems they’re up across the board for us and the industry as a whole,” he said.

May said Wednesday he could not quantify the increase in sales because the majority of the company’s seasonal revenue is generated on July 3 and 4.

Fireworks sales are legal in New York for only a few days out of the year: from June 20 to July 5 and Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.

The sale and possession of certain fireworks has been legal in New York since 2014. After twice vetoing similar bills, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a measure legalizing small fireworks as long as municipalities opted in. In 2017, the legislature passed a bill requiring cities and counties to opt out with their own local laws, citing the influx of local sales tax revenue generated by fireworks sales.

Keystone Fireworks, which operates more than 100 locations in New York, including one in Sidney, sources its employees locally, according to May. Tents are rented from local agencies, and temporary lease agreements are signed with local property owners.

“There’s considerable local economic benefit,” May said.

The New York state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services defines legal fireworks as “sparkling devices that are ground-based or handheld devices that produce a shower of colored sparks and or a colored flame, audible crackling or whistling noise and smoke,” which excludes aerial fireworks and those that make an audible explosion.

Fireworks are also required to be “limited in sizes that range from 1 to 500 grams of pyrotechnic composition,” according to state guidelines.

“It’s still a really nice show,” said Marissa Hoose, site manager for Northern Lights Fireworks’ Southside Mall location. “We’ve had a lot of people say they’re trying out fireworks in their own backyards this year.”

Founded by the Rittenburg family in 2017, Northern Lights is a nonprofit organization based out of Herkimer, according to Hoose. Proceeds from fireworks sales benefit Camp Anavah, a summer camp in West Winfield established by the Rittenburgs in 2013.

Hoose encouraged Independence Day merrymakers to follow all safety precautions and to be mindful of their neighbors, pets and local noise ordinances when lighting fireworks.

“We like to see people have fun and be safe at the same time,” she said.

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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