Thursday, December 11, 2008

Babies, Babies, Babies!

We recently welcomed the birth of 3 boys in our company!

Congratulations to Yumi!

Congratulations to Minnie!

Another one coming soon in May!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Latest Shipping Port News

There have been several rumours circulating that new ports will open up soon, namely Lian Yun (連雲港) and Ningbo (寧波) port.

Lian Yun port is not able to handle fireworks and neither is Ningbo. There is no ocean vessel going through Lian Yun port so fireworks need to transport back to Shanghai. The port is also 250 miles north of Shanghai so it is much more expensive from Liuyang to go there, and back down to Shanghai. The only advantage for opening up this port or Ningbo, is when Shanghai decides to close the port for fireworks during the Expo 2010 (from May 1st to Oct 31st, 2010). Then we can send the cargo to Lian Yun or Ningbo for loading (if there is a ban in Shanghai).

After a recent safety meeting in Liuyang, there were some discussions with the Deputy Liuyang City Secretary. The government is trying to open more ports like Lian Yun or Ningbo, just in case Shanghai decides not to take any fireworks during the Expo. The Secretary also indicated that does not look likely Nan Sha port will reopen to fireworks. Guangxi's Beihai govenment had a meeting with Liuyang government, and indicated that Beihai government wants to stop fireworks from Beihai port, and open up Tie Shan Port (鐵山港). However, that would require some investment to upgrade the port facility before the port can handle fireworks. Beihai government is asking Liuyang government to invest.

Many people are actively working on opening more ports for fireworks but it is a lengthy process and one that will take at least a few years.

Friday, November 21, 2008

If you haven't seen it ... Atlantis Hotel opening in Dubai

Good resolution CNN footage but stops after 5 minutes.

Low quality but full length

Link to BBC Video Footage of event
Fiery spectacle opens Dubai hotel

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

China Export Tax Rebate for fireworks to be increased to 13% after December 1st 2008.

The current Export Tax Rebate is at 5% which was reduced from 13% in June 2007. It has been confirmed that fireworks has been included in the next round of Tax Rebate increase and for exports after December 1st, 2008, the rate will go back to 13%.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Chinese safety agency to overhaul use of fireworks component 2008-11-07 20:32:24 Print

BEIJING, Nov. 7 (Xinhua) -- The State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) said on Friday it would start a special overhaul on potassium chlorate, a chemical widely used for producing fireworks.

The administration said misuse of the chemical was the major cause of fireworks-related accidents. Relevant authorities should keep records of all purchases, sales and use of the chemical to prevent accidents.

A SAWS official said the administration conducted random inspections of fireworks producers and distributors every year. These inspections covered about 5 percent of all producers and distributors in the country.

Province-level work safety departments also carried out similar checks on more than 20 percent of firework units in each provincial region.

He said results of the overhaul and penalties on companies that had misused the chemical would be released later.

Last month, a fireworks technician died in an explosion outside a park in Shanghai when he was loading fireworks on to a truck.

On Sept. 20, a nightclub fire left 43 people dead and 88 injured in south China's Shenzhen city. The fire began when a performer set off fireworks during a show.

Editor: Jiang Yuxia

Monday, November 3, 2008

Shogun Iron Pyro Competition launched!

Loosely based on the format of the popular television cooking show called Iron Chef, Iron Pyro is a pyrotechnicians dream come true for anyone that would like to try their hand as a world class Firework Choreographer competing head to head with like-minded individuals. In order to fairly judge the merits and skills of the Contestants, each of the three competitors will have been given exactly the same amount and type of firework “ingredients”, selected and donated by the events main sponsor and organizer Shogun Pyrotechnics. With a challenging combination of shells, rockets, fountains, comets, roman candles, and mines each Contestants job will be to create a six to ten minute firework extravaganza blended to the music of their choice.

On Tuesday night August 11th 2009 in Mason City Iowa, in conjunction with PGI, three specially selected contestants will take the stage to battle it out for the honor of becoming the first ever IRON PYRO.

Iron Pyro's main idea is to promote and encourage new directions in the field of firework design and firework choreography. We hope that access to high quality fireworks and a competitive atmosphere before a live public audience will bring out the creativity and abilities of the Contestants in an off beat and unique way. In addition to the whole idea of the fun and excitement we think the event with generate is the fact that individuals who may not have the funds or resources to normally participate in a project of this scale will be equally eligible whether they be amateurs or professionals.

An Iron Pyro website has been launched to fully explain the rules and regulations of the competition, lay out who will be eligible, update interested individuals with new information, provide a forum for comments, videos, and suggestions, and begin the process of selecting the three finalists for the upcoming actual event.

If you (or anyone you know) think you qualify as an Iron Pyro, go to!

If you have never watched Iron Chef before, go to and type in Iron Chef!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fireworks fly in Mt Isa as man does urban streak in his undies

"The Australian" By Anna Caldwell | October 27, 2008

A MAN running down the street in nothing but underwear and a bike helmet adorned with exploding fire crackers caused a stir in Mt Isa last night.

Mt Isa police Superintendent Les Hopkins said the spectacle began about 10.50pm when the man ran up and down Camooweal Street in the town's city centre, the Courier-Mail reported.

Supt Hopkins said that although the stunt sounded amusing and probably looked it, it was dangerous.

"He was running close to one of our main roads, where the big road trains travel," Supt Hopkins said.

"It could have been quite tragic."

Supt Hopkins said the man had not offered an explanation as to why he had attached the fire crackers to his head.

A 22-year-old man has been charged with being a public nuisance and possessing fireworks.

He will appear in court later.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Beihai Port Re-Opens 24th October Afternoon

Beihai port has announced it will resume handling of fireworks containers this afternoon.

A new group of staff has been formed at the port to oversee the container loading process. They will ensure the number of fireworks containers being handled will remain within the safety limit of 100 containers per week.

Friday, October 17, 2008

MOL stops accepting fireworks containers from Shanghai to West Coast as of next week

Due to the economic downturn and reduced demand for services from China to the US, many shipping companies are consolidating their services with other lines, or re-routing their routes to make their sailings more profitable.

As of next week, MOL will stop accepting fireworks container from Shanghai to US West Coast and IPI via USWC. This is because their West Coast service will be using HYUNDAI vessels which do not accept fireworks. They will continue to accept fireworks to East Coast via all water services and destinations with port of entry on the East Coast.

MOL will maintain accepting fireworks container from Beihai to all destinations in USA.

This means that from Shanghai, there are now 4 shipping lines accepting 1.4G to the US West Coast: APL, Maersk, Matson and Cosco. From Beihai, there is MOL, Maersk and APL.

Beihai Port Re-Opens!

Beihai port starts accepting fireworks again!

However, there are still no transport permits being issued for transportation of fireworks from Hunan into Beihai. Permits most likely will be issued when the 5th China-ASEAN Expo and the 5th China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (Held in Nanning, Beihai from Oct. 22-25) finishes.

This means for now, Beihai port will only be officially available to fireworks made in Guangxi.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Beihai port suddenly stops handling fireworks shipments

After returning from National Day holidays, it was announced that from October 4th, 2008, Beihai port will stop accepting fireworks shipments. After inspection by Government departments, the port was informed they needed to restructure their port to conform to safety requirements before it can handle fireworks. We are waiting for more news about the development of the situation in Beihai.

Shanghai port can now accept 1.3G shipments, but only to Europe and NO DISPLAY SHELLS.

This obviously puts a lot of pressure on Shanghai port for peak season New Year's shipments and will cause major disruptions to shipments of display shells from China.

However, the biggest concern is this will open up to more cases of misdeclaration of 1.3G shipments as 1.4G or shipment of shells on shipping lines that clearly states they will not accept display shells, or worst the shipment of fireworks as “general cargo”.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

20th Macau International Fireworks Display Contest 2008

Winners announced!

First: Brezac Artifices, France
Second: Tamaya Arts Pyro Technics Japan
Third: Wan Dar Fireworks, Taiwan

Congratulations to Brezac!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Beihai Port Charges increases 200%

In a recently issued notice to all transport companies, Beihai port announced that in order to maintain safety in the port of Beihai, it is necessary that the port limit its storage of fireworks containers to under 100. As a result, from September 10th 2008 until September 30th 2008, Beihai port will increase its storage charges by 200%:-

2 days and under : RMB200/day
3 days to 6 days: RMB800/day
7 days and over: RMB2000/day

RMB1 = US$0.147

The above straoge costs will be charged regardless of delays as a result of inclement weather or delays in customs declaration or feeder services.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Shipping News - Fireworks outside of Guangxi still not allowed to be transported into Beihai for shipment

Permits for transportation of fireworks into Beihai from outside of Guangxi have still not been issued. It is still not clear when this will restart. All fireworks outside of Guangxi now have to be shipped from Shanghai.

Monday, September 22, 2008

APA Convention Orlando 2008 - Pyrotecnico Show

Part of the beginning of the Pyrotecnico show at APA based on their Jupiter Gold Award Winning "Rock Loves" in Montreal La Ronde.

Photo Flashes

This is the version from WDWMAGIC.COM:


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Updated: Transport of fireworks into Beihai still not resumed

Permits for transportation of fireworks from Hunan and Jiangxi to Beihai has not been resumed. It is not clear when this will restart. Containers are leaving from Shanghai but are being delayed due to customs issues.

Fireworks Materials cost from 2006-2008

This is the comparative cost of several fireworks materials from 2006, 2007 and 2008 to get an idea of why cost of fireworks continue to go up.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Transport of fireworks into Beihai to resume 1st September 2008

Permits for transportation of fireworks from Hunan and Jiangxi to Beihai will not be issued until September 1st. Beihai port has stopped loading fireworks containers since August 7th and is expected to resume some time this week.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

3,2,1 Fireworks - The Story of the 4th of July in Washington D.C.

Our Vulcan factory appears in this documentary about the making of the 4th July show in Washington D.C. Go to SPECIAL FEATURES on the DVD - Behind the Scenes in China!!

Excerpts from the documentary:

Go to for ordering details!!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Newflash: Beihai Port Update 4th Aug, 2008 Monday

On Saturday 2nd August, Beihai port allowed loading of fireworks containers again.

However, it is rumoured from 7th to 17th August, loading and transportation of fireworks will be stopped due to the Olympics. From 7th to 24th August, no fireworks outside of Guangxi will be allowed to be transport into the province. Once this is confirmed, we will update on our blog!

Olympic Opening Ceremony is on 8th August, 2008 at 8pm.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Newsflash: Beihai Port

This morning Beihai port informed all logistics companies that effective today, all transportation of fireworks including on roads and by sea must be stopped. This includes loading of containers onto feeder vessels. There was no announcement when transport can resume.

This morning the Work Safety in Guangxi also informed all factories that they are not allowed to start production until further notice. Again, there was no indication when they could re-start.

This could be due the Olympics but most likely it is due to a firework accident this week in a Hepu factory that resulted in two fatalities.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chinese fireworks cheaper but inferior

Article from Vancouver Sun
Tim Lai, Vancouver Sun
Published: Wednesday, July 30, 2008

VANCOUVER - The term "Made in China" seems to have been tailor-made for the fireworks business. Up to 80 per cent of the world's fireworks -- like so many other goods -- are manufactured in China, the juggernaut of the global fireworks industry.
So it was no surprise when the dozens of boxes unloaded onto the HSBC Celebration of Light fireworks barge in English Bay for tonight's China production -- Power of the Dream -- all had the familiar "Made in China" sticker plastered on them.

But like so many other goods, China's fireworks don't necessarily rate a gold medal for quality. "Chinese fireworks have improved significantly. There's a lot of good and bad in Chinese fireworks," said Wilson Mao, designer of China's Olympic-themed performance. Others in the industry point to Europe as the standard. "You get more even colour" from European fireworks, said Bill Raynault, president of the Canadian Firework Association. "Let's say you have red, green and blue up in the air," Raynault said.

"For the Chinese one, you'll see the red outshine all the others. The blue will be very washed out. In a Spanish or Italian product, they'll be even brightness throughout; it's very well defined. "All the products from Spain and Italy are predictable," Raynault said. "They're manufactured using more TLC."

Nova Scotia-based Fred Wade, secretary-general of the International Symposium on Fireworks, said: "Chemicals used in Italy and Spain are of higher grade, giving you more intense colourization and less smoke. They are the ones with the colours and intensity, the larger stars and special effects that will produce the 'wow' appeal in the audience."

Quality comes at a premium. Raynault and Wade agreed no one can compete with Chinese prices. The Canadian Fireworks Association says Canadians imported $9.5 million worth of pyrotechnic materials from China, more than half of all money spent on fireworks in 2006. The Americans were a distant second in Canadian sales, with $2.5 million.

In the U.S., the American Pyrotechnics Association says about 80 per cent of fireworks come from China. About 10 per cent are manufactured domestically and the rest come from Europe and Japan. Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, said the days of cheap Chinese fireworks may be on the wane. With safety regulations improving and growing energy costs, she said the price of Chinese fireworks may increase by 35 per cent. But that would still leave them considerably cheaper than the alternatives.

Heckman said 2008 has been a bad year: shortages and transportation delays meant about 15 per cent of fireworks ordered from China for Fourth of July celebrations did not to make it to U.S. shores. The backlog, related to the Beijing Summer Olympics and a series of warehouse explosions in China, came close to delaying the arrival of containers for tonight's performance beyond the time needed to set up the show.

Raynault said producers in Canada may soon look to Mexico as an alternative. But Heckman was skeptical. "The product in Mexico needs to improve substantially. I'm not sure the chemical formulations meet our restrictions in the U.S.," she said.

Fireworks & Olympics Update

It was announced a few days ago that Beihai will not permit transportation of fireworks on 30th and 31st July due to an economic meeting in the area. Production of fireworks in Beihai will be stopped from 7th August to 11th August. Transportation of fireworks into Beihai from other provinces will not be allowed from 7th August until 16th August. As the only port now accepting fireworks out of China, there could be a major slowdown or stoppage of fireworks shipment from now until after 16th August. Unfortunately, there was an accident in a fireworks factory in Hepu, Beihai Guangxi yesterday morning, and all factories in the province were ordered to stop work immediately.

Jiangxi has informed verbally all factories that they will not be allowed to manufacture n August, but this has not been documented. Hunan has yet to announce whether they will stop fireworks production next month. As the Olympics opening ceremony is drawing closing (8th August), it is very likely that the Hunan government will stop fireworks production for at least several days.

Shipping from Beihai remains difficult, with terminal, feeder and operation costs skyrocketing for the past month or so. Shanghai is scheduled to reopen its port for first shipment around 10th September. Although this is good news, there will be new inspection requirements for every container to be certified by local CIQ before it can be transported to Shanghai for export. At present, it is still not clear how this will be done, as CIQ will need to increase its workforce to handle the work load. Containers must be loaded in a CIQ approved facility and at the moment only 4 have been approved. Hopefully during the month of August, this will become more clear so that shipments from Shanghai will begin smoothly from September!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Beihai Port News from Beihai Daily

Recently, when the writer was doing an interview near Beihai ShiBuLing port (石步岭), noticed that truck loads of fireworks containers were being transported constantly into the Beihai terminal. There were piles of fireworks containers inside the terminal. It showed that the logistic business was growing in Beihai, but at the same time, it created a big challenge to the safety issue.

It was understood that since February and March, there were serious fireworks explosions happened in Sanshui (三水) and Whampoa (黃埔) of Guangdong province, and as a result, the Guangdong government decided to ban fireworks being imported or exported in any of the seaports inside Guangdong province. Sine then, the 60% of the total fireworks export out of China orginally handled by the port of Sanshui had to be diverted to either Beihai or Shanghai port. From June 1st, the Shanghai port announced that the port will not accept any fireworks with higher classification than 1.3G. Then early July, they further announced to stop all transportation of fireworks shipments. From there on, Beihai has become the only sea port in China to handle fireworks.

A CEO of a fireworks export company in Beihai told the writer, that it was his wish that the Beihai government would improve the safety regulations, come out with a better management plan and also to improve the port facility, and to reduce the back log of containers as soon as possible. It was also necessary to limit the number of fireworks containers inside the terminal.

The Pan North Bay Economic Cooperation Forum (泛北部灣經濟合作論壇) and 2008 Beijing Olympic is coming very soon, I wish that the government and the department concerned will pay more attention to the safety regulation of the Beihai port, so as to create a harmonious and stable environment for the long term business development of Beihai city.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Scientists, military search for less toxic fireworks

Bernadette Tansey, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, July 3, 2008

All of us are looking forward to the annual July Fourth fireworks, with their glittering starbursts of red, blue and green.

But chemists are actually trying to make our annual fireworks extravaganzas much greener. A big fireworks show can release poisonous chemicals over land and water, they say, with effects on people and wildlife that have not been fully evaluated.

"Fireworks, though spectacular and entertaining, are a source of concern because of environmental pollution," concluded two university scientists in Germany, Georg Steinhauser and Thomas Klapotke, in a recent review of efforts to produce less toxic pyrotechnics. People who raise concerns about toxins in fireworks, however, risk being branded as fanatical killjoys - even in environmentally conscious California. Bruce Reznik, executive director of San Diego Coastkeeper, said the group was treated like it was "stealing Christmas and apple pie" when it pressed state agencies to assess the environmental impact of year-round fireworks shows at the popular SeaWorld San Diego theme park.

"We took a lot of heat," Reznik said. A similar furor arose when the California Coastal Commission barred Gualala from holding a July Fourth fireworks display this year at a site where the noise might frighten seabirds away from their nests. Fireworks are fiercely defended as symbols of every innocent cause for celebration, from romance to national pride.

"You all are the nanny state," said Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, a trade group for fireworks businesses. "How much more can we impose on our freedoms?"

However, no less patriotic an institution than the U.S. military is seeking more eco-friendly pyrotechnics. The same environmental concerns are common to both fireworks and military equipment such as signaling flares and airborne weapons. Defense agencies are financing research by scientists including Steinhauser and Klapotke in Munich and explosives experts at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Among the concerns is the cumulative contamination of military testing grounds and training sites.

As the science advances, a fledgling "green pyrotechnics" industry has also sprung up to serve big entertainment businesses such as Disneyland Park in Anaheim, where neighbors' complaints about smoke from frequent fireworks shows prompted the Walt Disney Company to redesign its displays. So far, the market for the expensive new technology is confined to big show-business concerns that put on indoor concerts or wrestling matches where air quality is particularly important, said Darren Naud, a former Los Alamos lab explosives expert who co-founded a company called DMD Systems to serve Disney and other clients.

Naud said the greener fireworks won't achieve a broader consumer market unless regulators tighten restrictions. "If the regulations are not there, people will continue to buy the cheaper stuff," he said.

What worries chemists about conventional fireworks are three kinds of compounds. Flaming combustible elements give off smoky gases and fine particles that might penetrate the lungs. Metals such as barium and strontium add colors to the glittering flames. A third ingredient, perchlorate, promotes burning and supplies chlorine to heighten color. Perchlorate seeps readily through groundwater and is linked to malfunctions of the thyroid and birth defects.

Exploding this mixture of chemicals together may yield new compounds carrying health risks, including dioxins and other powerful cancer-causing substances, Steinhauser and Klapotke said in their February review article in the scientific journal Angewandte Chemie. Poisonous barium compounds can affect the heart and lungs, they said. But few studies have looked at whether the fallout from fireworks leaves harmful concentrations of toxins.

The trade group for fireworks businesses, the American Pyrotechnics Association, maintains that audiences attending the local July Fourth fireworks show have nothing to worry about. "Most communities have a few shows maybe once a year," said Heckman, the group's executive director. Heckman said most fireworks ingredients are consumed in the explosion and quickly dissipate. "The level of contamination is going to be nonexistent, or nominal."

Steinhauser and Klapotke found studies suggesting that fireworks ingredients can cause human health impacts when people undergo intense exposure. One paper noted an increase in asthma during the Indian Diwali festival of lights, and others reported diseases of the lungs, kidneys and other organs among overseas fireworks manufacturing workers.

The vast majority of fireworks used in the United States are imported from China. Many U.S. regulatory agencies oversee the fireworks industry, but they focus on making sure the products can be shipped without exploding and used without blowing off any fingers. In recent years, however, health and environmental concerns have surfaced in California where fireworks are intensively used or were manufactured.

In 2002, the city of Rialto and nearby towns shut down 22 wells contaminated by groundwater plumes of perchlorate spreading from two sites where fireworks and other products had been manufactured decades ago.

In December, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Board required SeaWorld to monitor levels of perchlorate and 40 other components of fireworks in Mission Bay, the aquatic inlet where SeaWorld can hold 150 fireworks shows a year. That permit requirement - the first in the nation - was a victory for San Diego Coastkeeper, which had urged state agencies for years to evaluate the environmental impact of repeated pyrotechnic displays.

"We're not saying nobody should have fireworks," said Reznik. "We're saying let's look at them and see if there's any impact, and if there is maybe they can be changed and be more environmentally friendly."

So far, no danger signs of fireworks-related pollution have turned up in monitoring tests of San Francisco Bay, said Dyan Whyte, assistant executive officer at the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board.

"If it doesn't look like a problem, we don't need to be out there ruining people's Fourth of July," she said. But the water agency will evaluate SeaWorld's studies, and keep an eye on the issue, she said. "This may be one that we need to take a closer look at, at some point."

Too Hot To Handle?

New safety concerns over Chinese-made fireworks.
Caitlin McDevitt
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Updated: 1:46 PM ET Jul 3, 2008

Last summer, it was Chinese-made toys, pet food and meat that caused concern. This July 4th holiday, there are new worries about the overly explosive nature of its fireworks. This week, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a report saying it found that nearly half of the shipments they inspected coming from China do not meet Federal safety guidelines. That's especially worrying since, according the American Pyrotechnic Association, 98 percent of fireworks used in backyards and front lawns across America are manufactured in China. NEWSWEEK's Caitlin McDevitt spoke with Scott Wolfson, a chief spokesman for the Commission about its findings and why this Independence Day could be more volatile than in previous years.

In the Commission's test of 400 Chinese shipments, 46 percent of were found to be non-compliant. That seems quite high. What were some common violations?
Wolfson: There are very strict mandatory standards for how much flash powder can be in consumer fireworks. Flash powder is the main ingredient that gives it its explosive nature. We often look for those that are over-packed. There are also standards that deal with stability. The fuse length also has to meet a standard, and there has to be certain labeling.

What's allowable under Federal standards?
Under Federal standards for legal consumer fireworks, there should only be 50 mg of flash powder or less in firecrackers, which stay on the ground and can produce a snake like effect. Aerial fireworks must contain 130 mg or less.

Some of the fireworks you found head for the consumer market was actually commercial grade, meaning they were more explosive and volatile. How are such fireworks ending up in the hands of consumers?
The CPSC has seen unscrupulous sellers willing to provide professional fireworks to consumers. It is actually a felony to sell professional fireworks to a person who does not have the appropriate license. It is also a felony to buy professional grade fireworks without a license.

Are there particular brands or kinds of fireworks that consumers should be wary of?
Anytime a product proves to be volatile the CPSC seeks to remove that product from the marketplace. The CPSC strongly encourages consumers to only use consumer grade fireworks and to use them as intended and directed.

What should people do if they suspect they may have such fireworks?
Consumers should only purchase fireworks from an approved source. They should look for fireworks with brightly colored wrapping, that has the clear and legible name of the product and only buy products out the front door - Consumers should avoid buying products in plain wrapping with no identifiable marking and being sold out the back door.

What, if anything, happens to an offending manufacturer?
We cannot hold a Chinese company accountable, [but] CPSC can hold the importer or distributor accountable. If the product violates federal law and makes its way into the marketplace, then a company can be held liable if they fail to report to CPSC in a timely manner.

What happens to illegal fireworks that the CPSC discovers?
They tend to be destroyed by ATF or Customs.

What's the CPSC doing to ensure the safety of next year's fireworks?

The CPSC inspects and tests consumer fireworks all year.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Oooooh, Canada

A French entry opened the Montreal international fireworks competition this year. © Yannick Grandmont for The New York Times

The New York Times
Published: June 27, 2008

LATE last Saturday evening, La Ronde, an amusement park that’s just a stone’s throw from downtown Montreal on an island in the St. Lawrence River, seemed an unlikely venue for a world-class competition. Teenagers with the giggles and other signs of roller-coaster overexposure contemplated yet another ride on the Super Manège or Le Monstre. Younger children, slowed by too much barbe à papa (cotton candy) and poutine (that Québécois concoction of French fries, cheese curds and gravy), were willed along by weary parents. The occasional large Fred Flintstone or Scooby-Doo plush doll appeared among the midway crowd, bounty from booths like Frappez la Taupe (Whack the Mole) and Roulé-Boulé (a form of skeeball).

GENERATIONS Some families haven’t missed any of the shows for years.
But just a few feet away at La Ronde’s small lake, before a grandstand filled with about 5,000 people, with thousands more waiting in anticipation elsewhere in the park, along the riverbanks and on a nearby highway bridge that had been closed to traffic for the occasion, a tuxedoed master of ceremonies introduced Fabrice Chouillier, a French pyrotechnician, and his team. The 24th International des Feux Loto-Québec, the international fireworks competition that runs for two months every summer in Montreal and draws millions of viewers, was about to begin.

Mr. Chouillier, whose company, Prestatech-Artifices, is the first of nine competitors this year, walked through the crowd to a control booth at the top of the grandstand, ready to start his computer-controlled extravaganza, built around the theme of space exploration and synchronized with orchestral passages from “2001: A Space Odyssey” and other works. He’d designed the 30-minute show at his office near Paris, had shipped thousands of shells and other fireworks across the Atlantic, and had been preparing them the last five days at a series of bunkers and platforms in an off-limits section of the park.

Across the lake, the lights on the park’s Ferris wheel flickered off. Among the crowd, the hawkers selling beer and blinking devil’s horns grew silent. As the opening strains of “The Blue Danube” waltz filled the air, a series of pyrotechnic strobes went off on the far side of the lake. The Strauss faded out, replaced by the “10...9...8” of an Apollo-era countdown, each number embellished by a comet, a shell that leaves a glittering trail in its wake. At zero, a line of fountains started spewing fire, and a loud rumbling began. It was as if the whole lake was about to lift off.

For the public, the competition is a chance to see 10 grand pyromusical displays — including a noncompeting show that closes the festivities — throughout the summer. In a city known for its festivals, the fireworks are exclamation marks that punctuate many Saturday nights, and a few Wednesday nights as well. Officials at La Ronde, which was built for the 1967 World’s Fair and is now owned by Six Flags, estimate that last year more than three million people watched the displays.

A jury of 19, chosen from the public, evaluates each performance and at the end awards golden, silver and bronze trophies to the top three. There’s no prize money, but that doesn’t really matter: for Mr. Chouillier and the other pyrotechnicians, just being invited to participate in the competition, generally regarded as the industry’s most prestigious, is an honor.

“It’s a sort of consecration in the life of a fireworks artist,” Mr. Chouillier said last Friday as his team, aided by La Ronde’s own crew, loaded aerial shells up to a foot in diameter into firing tubes.

Or as Stephen Vitale, president of Pyrotecnico, the American entrant in the event this year, put it, “It’s like the Olympics for us.”

It’s also a chance for these companies to design a show just for themselves, rather than carrying out some client’s vision. “What’s great about this competition is you have total freedom,” Mr. Chouillier said.

OF the hundreds of thousands of people who see each show, only a fraction are paying customers in the park. Many are like Marcel Gareau, a construction worker who with his family had driven from the suburbs and was installed in a lawn chair on the Montreal side of the St. Lawrence a full five hours before the fireworks began. The Gareaus have hardly missed a show in a dozen years, watching over the trees and listening to the soundtrack on their car radio.

They’ve seen the work of some of the best fireworks companies worldwide — from China, Australia, Italy, Portugal and elsewhere — but Mr. Gareau has a clear favorite. “The Americans,” he said. “They make the most noise.”

The competitors and the jury like a good racket as much as anyone, but for them the shows are more about conveying emotion through kamuro shells, go-getters, tourbillons, Chinese cakes and other pyrotechnic effects, all intricately synchronized with the music.

You have to have a lot of emotion to think about the soundtrack and the colors and everything,” said Martyne Gagnon, who has directed the competition since 1998 and is herself a licensed pyrotechnician. “It comes from the heart.”

Ms. Gagnon is in charge of choosing the competitors, and she keeps tabs on possible candidates within the small community of professional fireworks companies. She almost always invites teams from Canada, the United States and Australia, a couple from among Europe’s big three — France, Italy and Spain — and usually another European team or two. She tries for one from Asia, and this year she got two, from South Korea and China. Competitors are given a fixed amount of money for materials, but some pay for extra shells and effects out of their own pockets — which may be one reason the Americans make the most noise.

The jurors get a day of training in the science and art of pyrotechnics. Magalie Pilon, a doctoral student in physiology who was among those chosen for the jury from 550 applicants this year, was taking the job seriously. “This is a big party here,” she said as dance music thumped in the grandstands a few hours before the show. “But we have to concentrate because it’s important.”

“But if they wanted a professional jury they would have asked for it,” she said. “As a member of the public, I know I’m good.”

That confidence comes from having seen almost every display for the last six years. But she used to watch from the bridge, where her family had a special spot each week. As a jury member, she now has a prime seat for every show for herself — and for one guest.

“Let’s just say that now I am very popular,” she said. “I could ask for anything. Maybe I’ll ask for somebody to wash my car.”

THE grandstands offer certain advantages over the view from the bridge or the riverbanks. Many of the low effects can’t be seen from far off. And the shows are designed to look best from straight on.

Mr. Chouillier used plenty of low effects, starting with the fountains that, accompanied by the rumble of a rocket engine, seemed to simulate the launching of a Saturn V. Then it was on to “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” with exploding mines and other effects piercing the sky, choreographed to the piece’s famous kettledrum passages.

The “Star Trek” theme followed, with glittering showers of tiny stars looking for all the world like what Captain Kirk disintegrates into when Scotty beams him up.

There were brilliant flashes, head-throbbing bangs, huge groups of flares in red and green, chrysanthemums in red, white and yellow and, during passages from “Mars, the Bringer of War” by Gustav Holst, dozens of small green flares that seemed to dance on the water like little green men. More comets crisscrossed the sky in perfect time with the music. And at 30 minutes the whole thing ended in a barrage of pale gold-and-white shells, accompanied by more music from “Star Trek.” As the smoke drifted, the final sounds were heard: the five-tone alien signal from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

Afterward the verdict among some of the veterans was that the show was probably not a trophy winner — that the choice of theme and music was a bit clichéd, that the effects weren’t startling enough, that the all-white finale, though elegant, lacked a certain drama.

But back at a makeshift beer hall where team members and others relaxed and discussed the show, Mr. Chouillier looked happy and relieved. “My big fear was that something would go wrong, and it didn’t,” he said.

And judging from the hoots and hollers in the grandstand, the show was a crowd pleaser.

“It’s the best we’ve ever seen,” said Mark Jeffries, a Floridian who with his family had come to Montreal to visit his mother. “There’s some fireworks we’ve never seen before.”

His 11-year-old daughter, Carlin, had no problem with the finale.

“In Florida they shoot off all of them,” she said. “They kind of overwhelm you. This was different. Just nice and white.”


L’International des Feux Loto-Québec continues every Saturday through Aug. 2 and on three Wednesdays — July 23 and 30 and the closing show, on Aug. 6. The countries represented include Australia, Austria, China, Italy, Portugal and South Korea; the United States entry’s show is on July 30. Fireworks begin at 10 p.m.

Grandstand tickets, which include all-day park admission, range from 44.90 to 56 Canadian dollars (about the same amount in American dollars) for people over 4-foot-6; it’s less for those under that height. After 5 p.m. tickets are about half price.

La Ronde is best reached by public transportation. The Papineau Métro station, on the Green Line, connects with the 169 bus, which goes to the park’s front gate. Alternatively, the Yellow Line stops in Parc Jean-Drapeau on the other side of the Île Ste-Hélène; it connects with the 167 bus to La Ronde, or a 15-minute walk will get you there (and you’ll pass the geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller for Expo 67; it now houses an environment museum). After the show, walking to the Yellow Line is the best way off the island.

Free places to watch the shows include the Jacques Cartier Bridge, which closes to traffic at 8 p.m.; the Old Port of Montreal; and around Boulevard René-Lévesque north of the bridge.

Fireworks expected to cost more next year

Reduced supply in China, fuel costs said to create ‘perfect storm' in industry
By Jason Morton Staff Writer Tuscaloo News

Published: Sunday, June 29, 2008 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, June 28, 2008 at 10:52 p.m.

The storm is occurring in China, the main supplier of fireworks to the U.S. Bruce Volensky, vice president of sales for Pyrotechnico, which does display fireworks shows, said he's not seen anything like it in his 20 years in the business.

'It's quite unusual,' Volensky said. 'It really is the perfect storm in the industry, as far as price is concerned.'

The fallout, Volensky said, is already beginning to manifest itself in small ways.

'Next year, possibly, the costs could go up dramatically,' he said. Volensky said prices could range from 30 percent to 50 percent higher.

China began decreasing its shipments of fireworks overseas in anticipation of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing later this summer.

Then, about four months ago, an explosion in the Chinese port city of Sanshui destroyed 20 fireworks warehouses. The explosion rattled homes miles away and set off fireworks for more than 24 hours.

Add rising fuel costs — which increase shipping costs as well as the price of the chemicals used to launch the type of fireworks used by the large display fireworks companies — and the Chinese government's recent decision to stop subsidizing fireworks manufacturers, and the forecast points to smaller supplies and higher prices.

Tuscaloosa's fireworks spectacle planned for Friday at Sokol Park should not be affected, Volensky said. The company he works for is providing the fireworks for the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority's annual celebration.

The cost of the show will range between $18,000 and $20,000 — about $11,000 of that on the fireworks show alone — paid for primarily through sponsor donations.

But next year's fireworks display could be a scaled-back version.

'I don't think that would stop us from having it,' said Gary Minor, superintendent of recreation for PARA, 'but it could be possible that we would have to find more sponsors or pare back a little on the fireworks.'

Charging admission to view the show would be a last resort, he said.

'We've taken it on our shoulders to do this for the community,' Minor said. 'But unless [the price increase] really became extreme, we likely wouldn't do that.'

Pam Palmer, president of Fireworks of Alabama, which supplies about 100 fireworks stands in the state, said her company is also seeing price increases but does not think it will prove a serious problem to future supplies.

This year, though, she said people intending to buy fireworks for personal use should do so early.

'There is definitely a shortage in fireworks,' she said. 'We won't run out of fireworks, but we may run out of the type you want.'

The main reason is the cost of shipping, she said. Last year, a shipping crate full of fireworks cost $4,800 to ship from China. Today, that same shipment would cost $11,800.

Increases for individual fireworks, from Roman candles to bottle rockets, vary depending on the size of the product. She said consumers can expect to see fireworks going for 10 percent to 50 percent more per item than last year.

'The larger the items,' she said, 'the larger the price increase because they take up more space on the [shipping] container.'

Local stands, though, said they haven't seen any changes in the fireworks supply.

'We've got more than we ever had,' said Brad Hill, 31, of Brookwood, who operates the TNT Fireworks stand in Northport on Lurleen B. Wallace Boulevard.

Hill said he's been operating fireworks stands for about four years now to benefit his church, Apostolic Pentecostal Church in Cottondale.

So has Erick Johnson, 35, of Cottondale. He said the proceeds from his stand, located on U.S. Highway 82 next to Wal-Mart in Northport, go toward The Sanctuary in Bessemer.

The friends were working together on Thursday to get Hill's stand stocked in time for the weekend's anticipated sales rush. Both men said they had seen no effects of the fireworks shortfall, except for some increased prices.

'But that's nothing new,' Hill said. 'They do that every other year, anyway.'

Reach Jason Morton at or 205-722-0510.

Will changes in China cause local fireworks shows to fizzle out?

By Mary Ann Ford

BLOOMINGTON -- This year’s fireworks should bring the usual “ohhhhs” and “ahhhhs,” but next year’s displays could be a dud.

Shipping problems and changes in China’s labor and safety laws not only are expected to limit the fireworks imported into the United States but likely will increase the price three-fold or more.

“Everything is up in the air,” said Neecy Vinyard, president and owner of S&N Fireworks of Lincoln. “Shipping costs went up 25 percent this year. We’re expecting a substantial increase in cost next year.”

In addition, Vinyard said, China is no longer exporting the larger fireworks that are used in displays at Bloomington’s Miller Park and Normal’s Fairview Park on the Fourth of July.

The Twin Cities are in the middle of a three-year contract with S&N so the municipalities are guaranteed fireworks through 2009. What kind of fireworks will be available remains to be seen.

“If we locked in for a three-year contract, it stays at that price,” Vinyard said.

That means the company will have to eat any increased costs, just like it did for the increased shipping costs this year. The shipping charges went up after the company had sent a catalog listing prices, Vinyard said.

Andy James, president of Mad Bomber Fireworks in Indiana, said problems started after a February explosion at a warehouse at a port in China. The warehouse had about 100,000 cases of fireworks waiting to be shipped out.

“When the explosion occurred, it sent off a knee-jerk reaction and other ports closed,” James said.

That caused a shipping bottleneck and prompted shipping costs to skyrocket, said Tom Thompson, vice president of Melrose Pyrotechnics. Melrose and Mad Bomber are among the companies the Twin Cities has considered as firework suppliers.

Thompson said China also has implemented new safety guidelines at the ports and new labor laws that affect fireworks factories. About 98 percent of the fireworks used in the United States come from China.

“There are a lot of issues that need to be resolved” before fireworks distributors in the United States know what will be available next year, Thompson said.

“The biggest issue is shipping,” he said. “The ports need to be open.”

Vinyard said because China is hosting the Summer Olympics Aug. 8-24, the country has banned the shipment of fireworks out of the country from July 1 through the end of the Olympics.

While that won’t affected S&N, Melrose or Mad Bomber — each company received the bulk of their 2008 order before the first of the year — it could affect other suppliers.

Vinyard said her company has received calls from some Missouri towns looking for fireworks. She’s also had calls from other firework distributors in the United States wanting to buy some of her supply.

James said his company had its 2008 order by last fall and has already started ordering for the future.

“We have three containers on the way now,” he said.

The company, located at a former ammunition plant, has ample storage available.

Thompson said even though prices are expected to increase significantly, he thinks fireworks still are a great bargain considering how many people are entertained at a fireworks display.

“We’ll always have fireworks,” he said.

What's new in neighborhood fireworks
Article Launched: 06/27/2008 06:32:58 PM PDT

Two major providers of firworks, TNT and Phantom Fireworks, have come up with 10 new state-approved items for this Fourth of July.

Retailing for $4.50 at TNT stands is Mighty Man, an ellipse-shaped fountain with red, green, blue and yellow stars, as well as crackles with a titanium additive that produces bright silver-white sparks.

Emitting from the hexagon-shaped Glittering Jewels ($20) from TNT are colorful fishes with red, green and blue stars and titanium crackles.

Pharaoh's Treasure ($20, TNT), one of the few trapezoidal fireworks on the market, offers white smoke and a red torch with titanium rain, sparks of purple, green and blue, and loud, crackling chrysanthemums to go with red and golden fishes.

The $22 Jack in the Hex from TNT has an unusual design of hexagons and triangles to suggest a sprung-up jack-in-the-box. It spews a series of stars, crackles, chrysanthemums and flowers in red, silver, yellow, blue, orange and white, plus titanium crackles and a strobe effect.

Hexagon-shaped Dancing Stars ($40) from TNT features a unique "darting" or "jumping" fish effect and stars, chrysanthemums and crackles of green, red, yellow, blue, silver and gold.

The largest newcomer from TNT this year is 3-Ring Circus ($50), a raucous fountain shaped like three interlocked cylinders, bursts with crackles, chrysanthemums and torches in eight colors.

Phantom has a noiseless fountain called Flying Stars Fountain. Retailing for $10, the colorful item features a fish effect.

Blooming Flower ($25) is a novelty from Phantom with whistling silver spray and six blossoming flower petals accompanied by red, green and blue flares and multi-effect crackle.

Rock Around the Clock ($20) from Phantom is a fountain that has a spinning hand clock. The fan effect emits bright silver showers followed by a three-stage whistle and more showers, finishing with a crackling gold chrysanthemum finale.

Solid-Fuel Rocket Booster ($30) from Phantom is packaged like it sounds; it emits red and white glitter, silver chrysanthemums, crackle and green-yellow and blue silk pearls.


Sales skyrocket at Pa. store
Monday, June 30, 2008
MORRISVILLE, Pa. -- They're firing off "motherloads" of fun for the whole family, or so the store brags.

Stationed less than a mile from the border of New Jersey, Sky King Fireworks resembles a pyrotechnic haven for out-of-staters who can legally purchase the explosives in Pennsylvania before sneaking them over state lines, where setting them off is a no-no.

Despite heightened criticism in recent years and proposed legislation to ban fireworks companies in Pennsylvania from selling to non-residents, business at Sky King appears to be booming.

"We're stocking up for this weekend and the Fourth," smiled Brendan Kinney, standing in a nearly packed Sky King parking lot on Pennsylvania Avenue. "They've got great deals here. You can get really powerful fireworks for not much money."

Kinney, 19, said he's a Pennsylvania resident. By law, he isn't allowed to purchase fireworks or shoot them off in his state. Waiting outside while his New Jersey friend purchased the goods, Kinney said he doesn't think setting off the devices is a big deal -- so long as people are safe.

"If you get hurt from fireworks, it's probably because it was your own fault," he said. "I can't tell you where we'll be setting ours off, but I can tell you it's going to be a good time."

Since Sky King opened in 2006, manager Joe Van has taken a lot of heat for selling the explosive wares.

A loophole in Pennsylvania law allows Van to only sell fireworks to out-of-state residents, including people from New York and New Jersey, where transporting or using the explosives is illegal. The loophole was created nearly four years ago when the Pennsylvania General Assembly modified a 1939 statute that allowed business to ship fireworks out of state.

Politicians have proposed rescinding those changes and local residents have voiced their own ire over what they say is an aggressive marketing approach toward young adults and children.

But that doesn't seem to bother Van, nor his customers.

"Independence Day without fireworks is like celebrating Christmas without Christmas trees or Thanksgiving without turkey," Van wrote in an e-mail. "There is nothing more strongly associated with the tradition of Independence Day than fireworks."

Weeks leading up to the Fourth of July, Sky King puts more gusto into advertising its array of fireworks, sending Garden State residents a 30-page brochure of the store's thousands of offerings, ranging from mortars and shells to larger explosives called "Fighting Force" and "Pyro's Playhouse."

Offering stock at buy-one-get-one deals, the brochure encourages patrons to "Tell 'em where you got it!"

But where -- and why -- people are "getting it" is exactly what irks some people who are annoyed by Sky King's advertisements.

"Sky King shamelessly markets to little kids and to people who aren't just looking for a picnic fireworks display," said former Hamilton, N.J., mayor Glen D. Gilmore. "The fireworks we saw in their store included many that were made to look like children's toys and others that had names boasting about their destructive power."

Federal law allows fireworks to contain 500 grams or more than a pound of pyrotechnic material.

Sky King offers consumer fireworks, meaning they contain more than 50 milligrams of explosive composition -- the material that makes fireworks go boom.

But before anyone can enter Sky King's doors, they first have to show an out-of-state identification or state-issued permit. They then have to sign a form stating transport to certain states is illegal.

Once granted access, patrons can walk among ceiling-high stacks of explosives and combo packages coined as "Loud and Rowdy" to "Crazy Exciting on Steroids."

Gilmore said these kinds of labels are enticing to kids, and has called for legislation to put Sky King out of business to New Jersey residents, "since what they're doing is encouraging people to break the law."

Pennsylvania Rep. John T. Galloway has attempted to nix the legislative loophole, so far to no avail.

Galloway, a Democrat representing a portion of Bucks County, introduced legislation in 2007 called the "Good Neighbor Bill" that would forbid stores to sell fireworks to out-of-state residents. The bill has sat idle for nearly a year, as it's still under review by the agriculture and rural affairs committee.

New Jersey State Police said they're beefing up patrols from Camden to Easton along the Delaware River where several fireworks stores have opened shop.

At this time last year, State Police arrested 28 people within two weeks for sneaking fireworks into New Jersey. Figures on arrests this year are not available.

State Police Sgt. Stephen Jones said efforts will continue this season to curb the transport of fireworks.

"Our patrols and details have been at the river crossings and that does include some undercover work," Jones said. Last week, he said, a man was arrested with $500 worth of explosives.

Van has argued since the store's opening that he's not breaking any laws, and cited national figures that show injuries resulting from fireworks are declining.

According to the American Pyrotechnic Association (APA), based in Maryland, consumption of fireworks has grown nationwide from 132.9 million pounds in 1997 to 265.6 million pounds last year.

Injuries across the country spiked to nearly 11,000 in 2005 but declined to 9,800 last year. Since 1992, injuries per 100,000 pounds of fireworks used have dropped by 76 percent.

Julie Heckman, executive director of the APA, said her organization focuses on promoting fireworks safety.

Despite national media reports, which stated recent changes in federal fireworks laws have allowed the devices to contain more power, Heckman said the only changes to fireworks is the number of consumers.

"Over the past four years, we've seen unprecedented growth in the industry," Heckman said. "That has to do with newer kinds of fireworks that have really revolutionized backyard fireworks. And, at the same time, it's when more states started relaxing their laws."

The federal government did make its own standards more lenient in 1998 by allowing fireworks to contain 500 grams or more than a pound of pyrotechnic material. Heckman said these devices now make up 25 percent of industry sales.

Contact Lisa Rich at or (609) 989-5692.

© 2008 New Jersey On-Line LLC. All Rights Reserved

Prices for fireworks skyrocket

Sunday, June 29, 2008
Palm Beach Post

Fourth of July revelers rejoice: The sparklers are safe. The shows will go on.

A warehouse explosion in China prompted a slowdown in fireworks shipments, but the blast won't snuff out area celebrations. Despite national angst that a fireworks shortage could cancel community festivities and darken backyard parties, stores are stocked with bottle rockets and Roman candles. Cities say their fireworks spectaculars are ready to go.

Jordon Paniagua strolls the aisles at TNT Fireworks in West Palm Beach. The Big Bang package is on sale: Buy one at $799.99 and get another for just 99 cents. TNT ordered its fireworks before the warehouse explosions in China and is stocked for July 4.

Fireworks light up the sky during last year's Fourth of July celebration in Stuart. Despite the delay in fireworks shipments and the accompanying rise in cost, Jensen Beach based-Creative Fireworks said its Stuart event this year and its shows in Indiantown and Port St. Lucie are a go.

Mini Artillery Shell were $7.99 last year, but this year they're $10.99.

Pop-Its were 75 cents last year, but this year they're 99 cents.

Morning Glory was $6.99 last year, but this year its $7.99.

But that's not to say shoppers won't notice a difference in their pocketbooks as they grapple with spot shortages and higher prices for July 4 celebrations.

Brian Grummer, for instance, didn't have trouble filling up his cart at TNT Fireworks in West Palm Beach.

The 30-year-old from Greenacres is planning a trip with friends to Lake Placid, Fla., for the holiday weekend, so he went in search of "big, loud, aerial stuff."

"I like the big stuff," he said. "We should have a good show."

The tab for his stash of missiles, artillery shells, rockets, Roman candles, fountains and firecrackers: nearly $330.

"Folks can expect to dig a little deeper for their fireworks this year," said Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, a Bethesda, Md.-based trade group for the nation's $930 million fireworks industry.

In fact, pyrotechnics purveyors are facing their largest single-year price increase this July, with some companies pushing up prices as much as 30 percent, said William Weimer, vice president of B.J. Alan Co. in Youngstown, Ohio, which has Phantom Fireworks stores across the country, including 10 locations in Florida.

Phantom has increased prices about 15 percent this year, Weimer said. He points to several factors, including higher transportation costs, a weakened dollar and soaring inflation in China.

Nearly all of the nation's fireworks - both consumer and professional - are made in China.

The supply scramble started with an explosion in February that destroyed about 20 warehouses in the Chinese port city of Sanshui. The accident led to a ban on fireworks shipments at all Chinese ports except two, clogging the pipeline of both consumer and professional pyrotechnics to the U.S.

"It shut down our primary transportation route," Heckman said.

The U.S. government has been working with Chinese officials for months to resolve the transportation woes, she said. China's restrictions on fireworks production and shipping because of the upcoming Summer Olympics in Beijing added additional strain.

"That's not going to help us with July Fourth," she said. "If the product wasn't on the water weeks ago, it isn't going to get here on time."

Heckman estimated that 20 percent of the Fourth of July fireworks will not get here in time: "Everybody is short on something."

Most big chains stocked up early

Mom-and-pop retailers are hit hardest, which may mean fewer roadside tents. Most of the larger fireworks chains order months in advance and are stocked for the Independence Day rush.

Sky King, TNT and Phantom all have year-round locations in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, and many of the area fireworks tents are TNT vendors.

"Our orders were placed before Thanksgiving. Our merchandise was on its way here before the explosion," said Willie Micco, co-founder of Sky King, a Treasure Coast chain with 16 locations including Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, Stuart and Port St. Lucie.

At the TNT Fireworks store in West Palm Beach, shelves are stacked to the ceiling with mortar kits, poppers and rockets. Prices, though, are up about $5 to $10 on several of the larger assortment packs and power-packed aerial fireworks, said manager William Taylor.

Some items have jumped more, such as the Mega Burst 13-piece assortment that was $140 and is now $170. The store couldn't get some items from Florence, Ala.-based TNT's catalogue this year, but sales still are rolling in, Taylor said.

Taylor estimates his average customer spends $100 for Fourth of July fireworks, but some buy by the cartload.

The Big Bang is a roughly 7-foot-tall box of fireworks that sells for $799.99, with a second one priced at 99 cents. This month, Taylor sold four in one day.

Most area events will take place

For the super-size community shows, the delay in fireworks shipments also is squeezing professional firms. Industry leaders say some cities might have to scale back or even cancel their fireworks displays this year.

But again, most of the city-sponsored shows in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast are put on by larger firms that stocked early.

"All of our July displays will go on," said Ana Esturilho, manager of Zambelli Fireworks' Boca Raton office.

The New Castle, Pa.-based firm will produce 60 Fourth of July shows in Florida this year, Esturilho said, including West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Lake Worth, Wellington and Greenacres.

Brookhaven, N.Y.-based Fireworks by Grucci, which handles the Delray Beach and Boynton Beach shows, keeps a two-year inventory on hand, said producer Philip Butler. On the Treasure Coast, Jensen Beach-based Creative Fireworks said its shows for Stuart, Indiantown and Port St. Lucie are a go.

Most of Fourth of July celebrations will be unscathed, but fireworks retailers are already worrying about New Year's Eve festivities. And many fear shortages and price increases will be a larger problem in 2009.

"You may be paying 20 to 30 percent more and still not getting what you ordered," Micco said.

Fireworks Ban In Effect
Disaster Declaration Banning Usage In County Begins Tuesday

POSTED: 8:47 pm CDT June 23, 2008
UPDATED: 7:54 am CDT June 24, 2008

SAN ANTONIO -- A disaster declaration by Bexar County went into effect Tuesday, effectively banning the use of fireworks except in specified safe zones.

Bexar County commissioners passed the declaration earlier this month, which banned the use of fireworks and the sale of specific types. The declaration follows continuing drought conditions as well as a lack of significant rain across the area.

Michael Girdley with Alamo Fireworks said he understands the situation and admits the subsequent ban is bad for business, but he believes the weather and sales will eventually bounce back.

There are 10 designated safe zones that will allow people to use their fireworks. The zones, staffed by volunteer firefighters and fireworks sales staff, will be prepared in advance of the July 4 holiday for use. Firefighters will use a controlled burn to eliminate any dry grass in the area and will later hose down the land just before the sites open to help prevent fires from igniting, according to a county press release.

The safe zones will be available on July 3 and 4 from 6 p.m. until midnight. A map of the fireworks safe zones can be seen here. (PDF file courtesy of Bexar County).

Nebraskans Travel to Missouri to Purchase Fireworks
Posted: 9:29 AM Jun 29, 2008
Last Updated: 6:32 PM Jun 29, 2008
Reporter: Nick Steffens

Some fireworks can be legally purchased in Nebraska, but with some on the banned list, Nebraskans are left looking elsewhere for the big booms.

For some, that means traveling to Missouri, a state that doesn't outlaw many of the fireworks Nebraska does.

Tyler Goodman, of Bellevue, travels to Watson, Mo., to purchase his fireworks.

"We find that we get a little bit of a bigger variety when we crosser the border," he said.

Goodman and a friend spent nearly $700 in just one visit to a fireworks stand in Watson.

But officials in Nebraska say what Goodman is doing is illegal.

According to John Falgione with the Nebraska Fire Marshal's office, any fireworks bought out-of-state and transported into Nebraska can be confiscated.

There is also a fine associated with transporting fireworks into Nebraska

Texas Forest Service Issues Warning On Use Of Fireworks In Rural Areas
By John Pape

With the Fourth of July holiday just around the corner, the Texas Forest Service is warning people to be cautious using fireworks in rural areas. Dry conditions across much of Texas can result in grass fires like the one that engulfed this car.
slideshow With most cities banning the discharge of fireworks, some people are going to rural areas to celebrate the Fourth of July.

That, however, may not be a good idea, according to the Texas Forest Service.

Despite recent rainfall, many rural areas continue to be extremely dry and there continues to be a high danger of wildfires. Even when caution is used, handling of fireworks can be dangerous, according to Tom Spencer, fire risk coordinator for the Texas Forest Service.

“It only takes a spark to start a wildfire,” Spencer said. “Fireworks, especially aerial fireworks, can be the source of that spark.”

Much of the state remains in drought and, as a result, the grasses have dried out and are easily ignited. Spencer recommended using fireworks well away from dry grass and other flammable vegetation. He recommended the following precautions be followed:

• Adhere to all county and city fireworks laws and restrictions.

• Use fireworks outdoors, away from dry grass and buildings.

• Follow label instructions on how to properly discharge fireworks.

• Only use fireworks with close adult supervision.

• Keep a bucket of water, wet towels and a garden hose nearby.

• Discard used fireworks; never try to relight them.

• Allow used fireworks to cool thoroughly before handling to avoid burn injuries.

The Texas Fire Service is urging people who want to celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks to plan ahead and limit the use of fireworks to areas where accidental fire starts will not occur.

Better yet, make plans to attend a professional fireworks display.

“Everybody doing their part will make sure we all have a happy and safe Independence Day,” Spencer said.

Drought conditions delay sales of fireworks -Texas

Posted: June 23, 2008 09:53 PM
Updated: June 23, 2008 11:23 PM

AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) -- If you're looking to celebrate the Fourth of July with a bang, you can't run out and buy fireworks just yet.

You won't be able to get your hands on any fireworks until just days before the Fourth.

These sizzling days we have had over the past month are wreaking havoc on Fourth of July fireworks' sales.

Drought conditions across the state are delaying sales.

The Texas Pyrotechnic Association, the Texas Forest Service, along with emergency and fire officials, are voluntarily taking action by delaying sales one week.

It's a proactive way to limit the potential fire threat during this dry, hot season.

This will hit heavy in the pockets of those who sell fireworks, with 70 percent of the sales season eliminated.

The groups, however, said safety is a major concern.

So, you won't be able to buy firecrackers until July 1 in Bastrop, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties.

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2008 WorldNow and KXAN. All Rights Reserved.

How Safe, Sane? - California

How Safe, Sane?
Despite pleas by governor, fire officials, most fireworks stands open up

Published: Sunday, June 29, 2008 at 4:30 a.m.

Photos by CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat
Many nonprofit groups rely on the money raised by selling fireworks.

Dick Sharke

Petaluma drug task force director:

"If they'd go after these people with bottle rockets instead of giving them a slap on hand, we'd fare a lot better. I hate mass punishment."

Bruce Varner

Santa Rosa

fire chief and part of a group of fire officials strongly opposed to sales:

"We don't believe even so-called safe and sane fireworks belong in the hands of consumers."

Under skies darkened by smoke from some of the state's 1,345 wildfires, dozens of nonprofit groups began selling fireworks Saturday in parts of Sonoma County, ignoring pleas from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and local fire officials to suspend the practice this year.

Fireworks stands opened for business in Petaluma, Rohnert Park and Sebastopol, with red, white and blue banners luring buyers to state-approved devices such as "Super Nova" and "Mad Dod Fountain," which shower sparks in the air. Sales could begin Tuesday in Cloverdale.

Kenny Calkins of Novato said Saturday he plans to spend the Fourth of July with his three sons lighting fireworks. He purchased $40 worth of legal pyrotechnics at a Rohnert Park stand in the Home Depot parking lot, saying it's a fun family tradition.

"It's a kid thing," Calkins said. "Everyone likes to do it."

Sellers said fireworks aren't to blame for the fires that have raged across Northern California the past week and say the profits from sales help pay for worthy programs.

"I feel very sad for the people that are being displaced in their homes," said Tim Mattis, past president of the Rotary Club of Rohnert Park-Cotati, which opened a stand outside Home Depot. "But, if used correctly, our fireworks are a safe and sane way to celebrate the nation's birth and history."

With an explosion of fires sparked by lightning strikes last weekend and fueled by drought conditions, Schwarzenegger on Wednesday asked people not to buy fireworks this year, hoping to prevent the possibility of more fires and sparing crews battling blazes from Big Sur to the Oregon border.

Sonoma County fire officials echoed the concern, saying a lack of rain has created a combustible situation that will only worsen this summer.

In Cloverdale, blanketed by a thick haze from numerous fires in Lake and Mendocino counties, officials asked the Lions Club and Veterans of Foreign Wars to suspend sales. The two nonprofit groups agreed to postpone their opening until Tuesday, reducing the chances of a weekend mishap, said Capt. Al Delsid of the Cloverdale Fire District.

The City Council has scheduled an emergency meeting Monday at 5:30 p.m. to consider suspending the sales.

With most of its small department off fighting fires around the state and fire danger high on the homefront, the department is recommending no fireworks this year.

"Everybody is nervous about fires up north and we have a potential in our community," Delsid said. "Common sense would dictate it's not a good idea to sell fireworks."

The Fourth of July tradition has come under increasing scrutiny over the years for its potential to ignite a parched landscape.

Following extensive damage to a Santa Rosa home from a wildfire started by bottle rockets in 2003, voters banned fireworks altogether, joining four other cities and the unincorporated county in prohibiting their use or sale.

The association of county fire chiefs is strongly opposed to fireworks, but lobbying from the industry and from nonprofit groups that benefit from their sales has blocked bans in other cities.

"We don't believe even so-called safe-and-sane fireworks belong in the hands of consumers," said Santa Rosa Fire Chief Bruce Varner.

Petaluma Chief Chris Albertson's opposition to fireworks has been overruled by the City Council, which decided instead to restrict fireworks in certain fire-prone areas.

Albertson said nonprofit groups could find other ways to raise money. Fireworks are banned in all of Marin and Mendocino counties, where groups have found alternative fund-raising methods.

"I know you'd have to do a lot of car washes and bake sales, but other communities do it," he said. "The fact is, other communities have soccer and baseball. They seem to survive. They flourish."

Some nonprofit groups say they depend on fireworks sales as a major source of funding for programs that fill gaps left by overstretched public agencies.

Dick Sharke, executive director of Petaluma's McDowell Drug Task Force, said the $20,000 he raises each year pays for programs that teach teens about the perils of drinking and driving.

Rather than threatening his funding, authorities should be harder on people who use illegal fireworks, which are more dangerous, he said.

The proliferation of contraband fireworks ruins it for everyone, he said.

"If they'd go after these people with bottle rockets instead of giving them a slap on the hand, we'd fare a lot better," Sharke said. "I hate mass punishment."

In Cloverdale, Jim Pankey of the VFW said the $10,000 he gets from fireworks sales fills his coffers for a year. The group spends the money mostly on college scholarships.

However, Pankey conceded with the drought and growing concern about fire, the future of fireworks sales is shaky.

"I'm pretty sure this is the last year we will sell," Pankey said. "It just keeps getting worse each year."

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 762-7297 or


Chris Albertson

Petaluma fire chief says groups can find other ways to raise money:

"I know you'd have to do a lot of car washes and bake sales, but other communities do it."Tim Mattis

Ex-president of

the Rotary Club

of Rohnert Park- Cotati:

"If used correctly, our fireworks are a safe and sane way to celebrate the nation's birth and history."

Fireworks sales are skyrocketing before the Fourth

By John Basilesco
Staff Writer
Eagle Tribune

June 29, 2008 05:51 pm

National sales of backyard fireworks are booming, and that means big business in New Hampshire.

Sales are at an all-time high, according to the American Pyrotechnic Association. Last year, sales soared to $930 million nationwide, with backyard fireworks sales representing $620 million, up from $400 million in 2000.

This year, sales have been "a little quieter than usual," probably because of the economy, said Mary McCluskey, manager of Phantom Fireworks in Londonderry.

"But people still like their fireworks, and they are coming in to purchase them," she said.

Among her customers the other day was 38-year-old Dennis Cremin of Chester, who said he and his friends all chip in $100 to buy an assortment of fireworks that they set off on a beach in Massachusetts the night before the Fourth of July.

Fireworks are legal in New Hampshire, but not in Massachusetts.

"It's pretty much a tradition," he said. "The place where we go to set them off, I've been going to since I was about 5 years old."

He said he continues to enjoy setting off fireworks with his boyhood friends, now adults with families who participate in the annual Fourth of July celebration.

Others shopping for fireworks at Phantom included Dimitri Panacopoulas and his girlfriend, Emily Myers, of Londonderry.

"We're already starting on another cart," Myers said after they loaded up their first shopping carriage with two huge boxes of fireworks.

"We're going to be going to town," Panacopoulas said of this year's planned July Fourth celebration, which always involves consumer fireworks.

"We enjoy the celebration and having everyone get together," he said. "It's an annual tradition. It's just friends and family."

Having a celebration at a friend's house also beats traveling to a professional display, Panacopoulas and Myers said, because that involves fighting traffic and putting up with large crowds.

Michael Clark of Washington agreed. He made the 21/2-hour round trip to buy an assortment of fireworks at Phantom Fireworks in Londonderry Wednesday afternoon.

Clark said he hates going to professional fireworks displays, but loves having his own.

"You're fighting traffic to get to the display," he said, "and you have to arrive three hours ahead of time to even find a parking space. At the end, it's all smoky — you don't know where your car is."

While consumer fireworks are illegal throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire communities have the option of banning them or allowing them with some restrictions, including a permit.

Windham, Salem and Derry don't allow fireworks. But people still use them, especially around the Fourth of July, Windham police Chief Gerald Lewis said.

Officers use their discretion when they respond to a fireworks complaint, he said. If the amount of backyard fireworks is small and no one has been hurt, typically the officer will confiscate the fireworks and issue a warning. But if it involves a repeat offender, an injury or a large amount fireworks, then the violator would most likely be arrested, Lewis said.

Derry police Capt. Vern Thomas said police there take violators to court.

Some towns, including Hampstead and Pelham, require residents to get a permit to use fireworks on their property.

But Pelham fire Chief Michael Walker said he's only aware of two permits that are sought and issued each year. One is for a resident who holds an annual Fourth of July party. Anyone else using fireworks does not have the necessary permit, Walker said.

"I can hear them from my house," Walker said. "But you can't catch everybody. It's analogous to catching people who are speeding. We certainly frown on it. It's not tolerated, and police respond to fireworks complaints and take legal action."

Walker said there several dangers associated with consumer fireworks, including fireworks that don't explode after the fuse is lit. This can lead to serious burns and other injuries if someone picks it up and it explodes in their hand, he said.

Backyard fireworks can also spark brush or building fires.

New Hampshire state Fire Marshal Bill Degnan urges anyone planning to celebrate the July Fourth holiday with home fireworks to use extreme caution and to keep fireworks out of the hands of children.

"Fireworks are explosive devices," Degnan said. "They can cause serious injury if misused or handled carelessly. They should only be handled by responsible adults."

For many Americans, fireworks have become a way of life during the holidays — beautifully colored sparks flying through the air with loud rumbling explosions. But people often forget that they are playing with explosives, dangerous chemicals and combustibles that can destroy property and injure people, Degnan said. They throw hot sparks through the air and can reach temperatures hotter than 1,200 degrees, he said.

William Weimer, a vice president of Phantom Fireworks, said manufacturing improvements and closer government control have made today's consumer fireworks much safer than they once were.

While sales figures have been soaring, the total number of injuries from fireworks has been dropping, Weimer said.

Weimer said while sales tripled from 1992 to 2006, injuries dropped over that same period from 12,500 in 1992 to 9,200 in 2006.

Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.


Dennis Cremin of Chester looks through the Phantom Fireworks trying to decide what he wants this year. Cremin and a group of his friends each spend a bit of money and get together every year to light them off on July Fourth. Staff photo

No new fireworks inspector until after July 4

Article published Jun 27, 2008 in New Hampshire Business Review

In its last session, the Legislature passed, and Governor Lynch recently signed into law, a measure enabling the state fire marshal better crack down on the sale of illegal fireworks. But even though the law went into effect immediately, it won’t make much difference in the days leading up to this coming July Fourth.

The law, which was passed May 14 and signed on June 11, increases licensing fees from $40 to $100 for those transporting fireworks and imposes a new fee of up to $250 for those engaged in indoor displays or explosives. The money would be used to hire a year-round fireworks inspector.

Stephen Pelkey, CEO of Jaffrey-based Atlas PyroVision Productions -- the largest fireworks company in the state -- said he doesn’t mind the fees, or the new notice requirements of 72 hours before a fireworks show. He said his firm wanted to make sure that illegal fireworks – ranging from cherry bombs to rockets – not be sold.

“We want to protect legitimate businesses by responding to those who do not play by the rules,” he said.

But state lawmakers simply acted too late to hire someone in time for this year’s July Fourth displays, said John Raymond, assistant director at the state fire marshal’s office. To hire someone for a new position, the fire marshal will have to go through the Department of Administrative Services Personnel Division, meaning the best he could expect would be to hire someone at the end of the July.

“I was hoping to have someone on board, but that’s how things happen in Concord,” he said.

The fireworks inspector’s job involves more than inspections. He or she would educate store owners on what can be legally sold and increase awareness in the general public.

Meanwhile, those selling illegal fireworks shouldn’t think no one is out there.

“I’ve got fire inspectors out there, walking through stores, seeing what they are selling. A lot of storeowners are being inspected today, and they don’t even know it,” Raymond said. – BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

© 2007, New Hampshire Business Review, Manchester, New Hampshire

Bombshells, flashy names sell fireworks

Posted on Sun, Jun. 29, 2008
Kansas City Star (
The Kansas City Star
Who says you can’t buy Happiness?

Turns out, Eternal Damnation and Eternal Absolution are for sale, too.

As for Happiness? It’s for sale at places like Riverside Red X Fireworks right now. With names like Blonde Joke, Explodimus Maximus, Crazy Exciting on Steroids and Gates of Hell, fireworks distributors have ramped up marketing of their products to appeal even more to mankind’s most primal desires: sex and blowing stuff up.

Walk into stores like Pyro City that are open year-round in Missouri or one of the numerous tent stands popping up throughout the metro area and you’re likely to see why. Local distributors said the selection of fireworks — easily more than 500 products at many places — has increased so much in recent years that the packaging needs to stand out.

Few vendors will deny that sexy packaging appeals to buyers. Sometimes that means adding busty babes in camouflage to the label or going a step further. On the Internet, you can find fireworks that sound more like titles of porn movies: The Big O, Vixens From Venus and The Girls Next Door. Other labels simply give shoppers a hearty laugh that encourages them to throw another item in their cart.

Just as casual drinkers sometimes pick wine by oddball labels, fireworks distributors understand that Hicktown Heaven, Totally Jacked, The Big No-No, Cooking With Gas and Self-Destruction might stand out to certain shoppers.

The catchy, goofy and titillating titles appeal to even the most traditional shoppers.

When Richard Tomlinson and his mother, Kathy Tomlinson, walked into a fireworks stand recently, they had planned to avoid the gimmicks and glitzy advertising. They picked up established products as planned, but even they couldn’t resist Break Out. The jailbird theme was perfect for a relative who works at a local jail.

And so the young man and his mother left with one more package that they didn’t expect to buy.

It’s a delight for marketers eager to appeal to consumers of all varieties. History lovers can delight in Invasion of Normandy, Battle of Yorktown and Boston Tea Party. Some might be drawn to Uncle Sam’s Answer or Shock & Awe. Others might prefer Smoke-n-Mirrors. If you don’t like One Bad Mother, maybe vendors will persuade you to buy One Bad Mother-In-Law.

“It’s so much better than it used to be,” said Riverside Red X Fireworks owner Zeke Young as he talked about the vast selection.

So who chooses names like Death Wish, Evil Clown, Rehab and Bad Mutha Trucka?

Sometimes it’s the Chinese officials working in the manufacturing plants. Other times it’s American importers.

Winco Fireworks, an importer based in Lone Jack, puts a big emphasis on product names. Winco employees regularly visit China to look for new products. When they return, a committee sits down to dream up names.

“In our case, we have a complete product development team, and they go around and brainstorm ideas and come up with pretty cool names,” said Mike Collar, president of Winco.

“We also try to make sure that the name fits.”

When the committee adjourns, Collar and others have the final say. A recent winner was Summer Storms, which includes Microburst and Thunderstorm. Other times, names are rejected outright and Collar wonders: “What in the heck were you guys thinking? That’s stupid.”

Around town, vendors are eager to point out Blonde Joke, a package swathed with pictures of provocative, tanned bombshells. Vendors agree that the name makes absolutely no sense. Collar said his committee probably wouldn’t have approved, but he sells the product nonetheless.

“I’ve got several blondes that work for me, so I’d be in big trouble,” he said jokingly.

But something curious has happened with the product. Buyers pick it up as a joke the first year. But customers discover the buxom blondes are no joke — the product performs well, and buyers ask for it by name the next year, Collar and several other vendors said.

Collar said he rarely gets complaints from customers. And when he does, it’s usually not about sex appeal. It’s often religious-minded customers annoyed by names that invoke the devil. Collar is respectful of their beliefs and guides them to another product.

Perhaps they would prefer Pure Heaven or Nirvana.

Ultimately, most consumers simply want the fireworks to be loud, flashy and spectacular.

So if Nuclear Meltdown, Revenge or Waking the Deaf isn’t for you, perhaps just being a Proud American on Independence Day is satisfying enough.