I’ve been writing about the joys and annoyances of fireworks for so long I have taken every possible stance on the issue.
It’s likely my opinion depends entirely on whether some band of hoopleheads have been setting off fuel-air explosives down the street the night before I wrote the column. It’s been quiet the last few nights, so I guess this year I’m pro fireworks.
Why not? They’re harmless fun, if you follow the law. Let’s reacquaint ourselves with the statutes, just to be safe.
Mn. Code (Fun, Suppression of ) 34-352c
1a. Whereas massive loud fireworks that whoosh from the ground to fill the night with beauty are fun, and
1b. Whereas fun can lead to joy, and joy can lead to sin
1c. It shall be determined that no firework (hereafter defined as “the real thing, baby”) shall depart from the ground, but shall be confined to a tedious vomit of sparks, not lasting more than four minutes in duration.
I’m kidding. Sort of. The actual law prohibits anything that goes up or explodes and even includes ladyfingers. Ladyfingers! We used to stick those in our back pocket out at the farm.
At a large red-themed retailing chain, I bought one of those “Assortments” that provide 7 minutes of underwhelming diversions for under $20. The box says “Contains Top Family Favorites,” as if they’d taken their data from some national fireworks polling organizations.
“Hello, we’re conducting a poll on fireworks. What does your family like?”
“We prefer a two-inch cylinder that hisses for 15 seconds, then ends with a defeated sigh.”
“Oh, those sparklers, sure. The kids love the sparklers.”
Do they, though? I have years of experience of handing lit sparklers to small children, and they always seemed conflicted. Gee, I wonder why? Parents, 364 days a year: “Kids, avoid fire, hot metals, chemicals and sparking things.” Parents, on the Fourth: “Here’s a white-hot rod coated with chemicals throwing sparks everywhere! Take it!”
The Assortment box did not have snakes, which could be a family favorite if you’re into Satan and want to conjure mindless black serpents from a small token.
If Minnesota fireworks have names like “Tootle-Oo” or “Smile Fun Shower,” you think Wisconsin fireworks will be called “Cousin Puncher” or “Cheddar Shredder” or something equally brawny. To test this theory, I drove to Hudson to my favorite fireworks place, Venture Fireworks (Exit 4 off 94.)
I’ve been going there for a while — but not for the illegal stuff. That would be wrong. I bought topiaries, which is apparently the industry name for “innocuous stuff that sits on the ground and dispenses small flaming balls.” I used to stock up on Chicken Laying Eggs, a little cardboard thing that blows fire out its hinder, then unfurls a little flag that says “Never Going to Eat Indian Again.” The kids loved it.
I was always tempted to pick up some heavy artillery but saw myself in cuffs in the back seat of a police car, the family weeping in sorrow.
“Is Daddy going on the chain gang now?”
“Probably, dear. We’ll meet him at the prison gate some day. Dry your tears, and don’t be sad.”
“Oh the tears are just from the smoke. Can I have his car?”
So no, I refrained from temptation. But the names of these Wisconsin beauties: Mega Trillionaire. Addicted to Loud. Scatterbrain. Blonde Joke. Nice Rack. Neon Muscle Shells. Toadly smokin’ five-inch Pounders. Boom Man Mega Fountain Eruption Hydrogen bomb. One Bad Mother-In-Law.
Prices vary, but the Brother Container Load, an all-night deafening-session in a box, is yours for $750.
Venture Fireworks expert Sean Sauter said the most he’s seen someone spend was $4,000. That’s 200 of those $20 Target assortments.
So why are these so good? What makes these fireworks so much more kaboomy?
It’s the cake.
“Five-hundred gram cake,” Sauter said, “cake” being the insider’s term for a device that can shoot off multiple shells from a single source. “That means there’s only one fuse that you light. It’s going to do its own self-timed aerial display show for you.”
How high? He patted one of the cake-based monsters. “These big nine-shotters, they’re going to go about a 125 feet high. But you do have things that have more shots, but don’t go as high. The Scatterbrain has 53 shots. They all the same amount of powder, and it’s divided by the number of shots.”
The boxes say C class. What else is available? “B class is professional grade. A class is a full-on explosive. C class is consumer.”
What do we have in Minnesota? D class? Z class?
“Technically you have C class, yes, but thanks to Jesse Ventura, your law states it cannot go into the air. It’s still consumer grade, but it’s wimpy.”
Cake-based boomers smuggled into the state are what you might hear in the days to come. You can nod sagely, count the booms, and say, “Well, they’ve distributed the cake over a dozen shots, it seems.”
Surely there’s a middle ground between selling the big rockets and forbidding anything more powerful than a sparkler. If it’s the going-up-in-the-air thing that seems to be the problem, why not legalize rockets that travel up just 6 feet and then explode? I think that’s a fair compromise.
(Just setting myself up for next year’s “anti” fireworks column.)