The night sky will soon be lit up with different shades of reds, greens, blues and whites.
The Fourth of July is quickly approaching and that means people will be stocking up on fireworks. Fireworks have become a tradition for the holiday, as much as cookouts and watermelon.
Johnson City holds an annual fireworks show at Freedom Hall every year. The show started as an employee appreciation event 27 years ago, but has turned into the largest firework display in East Tennessee. Fireworks aren’t limited to officials, anyone who wants to buy fireworks can, and there are more and more fireworks stores popping up all over the region.
Shoot ’em up fireworks is one of those stores, and has been in the region for 26 years. There are currently eight Shoot ’em up locations around the region. The store offers a wide selection of fireworks, including an Osama Bin Laden firework who’s head explodes.
“We range from a wide variety,” said Taylor Green, an employee of Shoot ’em up. “We range from the little stuff that you can sell in Walmart, to some of the big stuff.”
The big stuff that Shoot ’em up offers is really big. They sell a box of fireworks that stands around 5 feet high, and contains many different fireworks. It’s called the Godfather fireworks and features images of gangsters on the front.
The most popular fireworks are artillery shells and 500 gram fireworks. Artillery shells make big explosions and 500 gram fireworks contain the largest amount of pyrotechnic powder and chemicals allowable by law.
“Those 500 grams is what really puts on a show,” said Tammy Grindstaff, owner of Shoot ’em up . “If you want a show, that’s your best bet, the 500 grams and the artillery shells.”
Volunteer fire departments have recently gotten into the fireworks business. Six of the seven fire departments in Carter County sell fireworks. The stations that sell the fireworks are Watauga, Central, Stoney Creek, Hampton, Elk Mills and Roan Mountain.
Selling fireworks has helped the stations raise money.
“For the volunteer fire departments, it’s a life saver,” said Delisa Lafleur, secretary of Watauga Volunteer Fire Department. “Without it, we would not be able to purchase some of the things we purchase. If we have a bad year, it’s going to cripple a lot of the fire departments.”
Watauga VFD also offers huge boxes of fireworks. They have three boxes, but sell them to churches for a little over cost so the churches can have shows. Lafleur said it’s basically a show in a box, and only one box will be sold to an individual.
The fire department starts early to prepare for the holiday.
“We start working orders in April,” Lafleur said. “We go to fireworks’ demonstrations in May. It’s easier to sell them if you see them first.”
There are some safety tips when shooting fireworks. Grindstaff said to always have water available, don’t shoot fireworks toward another person, and shoot them one at a time. Lafleur said the best way to be safe around fireworks is to use them the way they were intended to be used, and use them with caution.
Business will really start to pick up later on in the week. Most of the fireworks that both shops have in stock will be sold before the Fourth.
“We’ve got eight locations, and two trailers full of fireworks,” Grindstaff said. “We’re hoping to empty them both this year.”
The VFD usually sells about three quarters of what they order, Lafleur said. Business picks up as the Fourth of July draws closer. Lafleur said that the third is usually the busiest day.
The VFD keeps some fireworks to sell on New Year’s Eve. The hours for the Watauga VFD are Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m.
Shoot ’em up is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Lafleur is thankful for people who want to buy fireworks and who buy them from Watauga VFD.
“It would be crippling for us without fireworks,” she said. “It is so wonderful for us. It’s the biggest fundraiser of the year.”