116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Fireworks sales boomed last Fourth of July in the pandemic and some vendors say sales this year might be even better — despite several local governments reminding consumers they face hefty fines for setting them off in those cities.
The State Fire Marshall’s Office reports it has granted more licenses — 583 this year compared with 553 in 2020 — for sales of fireworks from stories, tents and stands in Iowa.
In some areas of Iowa, including Coralville, that means consumer fireworks are sold at retailers including Hy-Vee, Target, Walmart and Thiesen’s in addition to temporary tents. But some communities — including Cedar Rapids and Iowa City — limit where in the cities the explosives can be sold. According to a list kept by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, only three fireworks vendors in Cedar Rapids and none in Iowa City have state licenses.
At one of the Cedar Rapids locations, 4401 Bowling St. SW, Bobby Sero and his brother-in-law are staffing the Iowa Fireworks Company tent, where they have been selling fireworks during the season for the last four years. The pair also oversees the operation of a tent at 100 Center Point Rd in Hiawatha.
“The demand last year was really good, so sales were great,” Sero said. “This year we’re seeing still a slight uptick. Looking like we’re getting a lot of customers that were new last year that are coming back this year, so that’s pretty nice.”
Iowa Fireworks Company saw an increase in sales during 2020, when the pandemic led to community display fireworks shows being canceled and families wanting to set off their own.
“Now that they’re able to have their own little get-togethers, now they’re probably going to make this a traditional thing and we look forward to being a part of that,’’ Sero said.
Iowa Fireworks Company started selling earlier than usual this year, on June 13, with a larger inventory than 2020 due to anticipated higher sales.
On Thursday evening, boxes of fireworks and a surplus of inventory was still occupying Iowa Fireworks Company’s tent, showing no sign or fears of running out.
Mary Kisling, a first-time buyer, was there with her children and is “OK” with regulations on the times and locations when setting off fireworks is allowed.
“I usually just do it at my backyard, but I usually don’t do big stuff,” Kisling said. “He does the big stuff at his dad’s house and that’s outside of Cedar Rapids.”
While her son is a firework fanatic and has experience at his dad’s farm, Kisling said she was encouraged by her son to purchase fireworks for the first time.
Ka-Boomers Fireworks, operated by volunteers from the Knights of Columbus and located at 810 Vernon Valley Drive in Hiawatha, also anticipates high sales this Independence Day season.
“Last year we sold literally everything we had,” volunteer Dan Palmersheim said. “We’ve been doing this for five years and last year was by far way above anything else we’ve done. We hope, they tell us, when the Fourth is on the weekend, sales are better. We’re anticipating a good year.”
Profits made from this Ka-Boomers Fireworks tent help to fund Columbus Club #5677, where it shares a parking lot.
Fireworks laws in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and surrounding areas
In 2017, the Iowa Legislature ended an 80-year ban on consumer fireworks in the state, allowing them to be sold and set off around the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. However, lawmakers agreed that local communities could establish stricter rules on when fireworks could be ignited — or ban them from being set off entirely.
In Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, the use of fireworks is not permitted and violators can face fines — up to $855 in Cedar Rapids and $520 in Iowa City.
In unincorporated Linn County, fireworks can be set off from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 4. In Marion, fireworks can be legally set off from noon until 11 p.m. July 4. Other incorporated cities in Linn County have their own rules.
It is illegal to set off fireworks anywhere in unincorporated areas of Johnson County without a permit. Other cities have their own rules. In Coralville, North Liberty, Tiffin and other cities, it’s illegal to set off fireworks. But in Solon, fireworks are allowed from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 1 to 3, and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 4.
Lone Tree’s fireworks ordinance follows state law, which allows fireworks to be set off from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 1 through July 8, with hours extended to 11 p.m. on July 4 and the weekends immediately preceding and following July 4 — this year that includes July 3, since July 4 is on a Sunday.
In 2020, three fireworks-related injuries were reported, along with four fireworks-related fire incidents, in Cedar Rapids. Additionally, 39 citations were issued in 2020, an increase in the 28 citations issued in 2019.
In 2020, the Cedar Rapids police received 1,174 calls regarding illegal fireworks incidents, a 90 percent increase from 2019, when 618 calls were received during the June 1 to July 8 time period. Public safety spokesman Greg Buelow attributes the increases to the cancellation of public firework displays.
In Iowa City, one citation was made in 2020 for illegal fireworks, a decrease compared with the 14 citations reported in 2019.
Buelow encouraged those who wish to view fireworks this year to attend a public display, such as the Celebration of Freedom Fireworks hosted by the Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival from 7 to 10:30 p.m. July 4.
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