CEDAR RAPIDS — Fireworks are a Fourth of July family tradition for Stylz Campbell, 28, of Cedar Rapids, who hunted for loud and colorful displays Wednesday at a tent in Marion.
With two kids in tow, they picked out Roman candles, sparklers and other products to light off later that night from a Phantom Fireworks tent on Grand Avenue in Marion.
“The kids love it,” Campbell said. “We will check out the fireworks in town and then pop some off out at the house later.”
Keeping the kids safe is a priority, he added, saying they set off the fireworks from a safe distance.
Fireworks vendors, such as Phantom, Wild Billy’s outside Menards in Marion and Bellino Fireworks in the parking lot of Marion Hy-Vee, were busy Wednesday with customers such as Campbell stocking up at the last minute for holiday festivities.
Gretchen Arcan was helping run a tent for Wild Willy’s Fireworks of Springfield, Neb. She said they weren’t as busy as expected this year. Communities have varying rules for lighting off fireworks, creating confusion about where and when it is acceptable, she said. Competition also likely has taken a bite out of sales, with a number of vendors packing into Marion because Cedar Rapids has restricted sales to industrial zones, she said.
She tried to advise customers about the rules, and Marion police provided a helpful information sheet, she said. While customers weren’t bragging about it, she said she knows some probably will be lighting them illegally because they know the rules are difficult to enforce.
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“There’s only so many places police can get to,” she said. “There’s only so many spots they can be at one time.”
Her stand is using proceeds to support the music program at Marion High School, noting they keep 20 percent of profits but are unlikely to hit the goal of $15,000.
Jennifer Fisher-Spiegel, a zone coordinator for Phantom, said sales have dropped off.
“It’s been slower this year,” she said. “There’s fewer days you get to set them off this year after the free-for-all last year.”
Last year, the Marion Phantom stand ranked second with about $60,000 in sales for the Youngstown, Ohio-based company among its Iowa locations, but sales were down to about $14,000 as of a few days before the holiday this year, she said. But, she said, it is typical to see the heaviest sales July 3 and 4.
This is the second Fourth of July since the Iowa Legislature legalized fireworks last year.
State law, in areas where it has not been superseded by local rules, allows for the sale and use of consumer fireworks from June 1 through July 8 and Dec. 10 to Jan. 3, generally from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fireworks can be ignited later on weekends and the Fourth of July.
But some of the area’s largest communities, such as Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty, prohibit the use of fireworks.
Other cities, including Marion and Hiawatha, allow but limit the use of fireworks. In those areas, fireworks can be set off only from noon to 11 p.m. July 4.
Laura Bontrager stopped at the Wild Billy’s stand to grab a “megamaster pack” among other items to shoot off later that night with family at her home outside Lisbon. They love fireworks, she said.
“We were pretty happy when it went legal,” she said.
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